By Monica Kobusiinge
Kampala: Two of the staff including a police officer and a private security guard have been arrested in relation to the fire outbreak which gutted the Makerere University main building known as The Ivory Tower. Their arrest was confirmed by the spokesperson of Uganda police Fred Enanga.
According to the University, the fire started on Saturday night destroying the top floor before the second phase fire which occurred yesterday leaving the left-wing housing human resource and records department razed down.
Enanga said that the police officer and private security guard were arrested for absconding from duty. He said their absence caused grievance damage to the building. “They could have seen the smoke and alerted our team to come and put out the fire in the shortest time possible.”
“The private guard was sleeping in his room, his presence could have saved the building, people knocked on his door, however, it took him one hour to come out,” he said.
Enanga said the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage from the university library has been retrieved and it will be viewed and analyzed to see whether there was someone who accessed the main building before the fire outbreak.
“Our team from the forensic services, Umeme Kawempe branch, a risky assessment team from Kampala capital city Authority (KCCA) will soon be on the ground to take samples to establish the cause of the fire,” he said adding that the cause of the fire is still unknown.
However, there is controversy surrounding the origins of the fire as there happens to be contradicting statements from different people who arrived at the scene to witness the ordeal.
While addressing journalists, the education ministry permanent secretary Alex Kakooza revealed that the preliminary findings point to the fire having been started in the ceiling of the public relations officer that was located in the right-wing of the topmost floor.
However, some resident staff at the university who were among the first people to arrive at the scene of the fire say that the fire began in the finance department located on the first floor of the right-wing.
According to Denis Abed, one of the security guards at the university says he was off duty and received a call from colleagues telling him that the building was on fire, he says on rushing there, the fire could be seen in the floor where some for the finance offices were located
However, other residents claim that the fire started from the central registry offices located on the topmost floor of the western wing. Wilson Amooti Kisembo a resident within the university says the fire spread from the central registry before it spread to the human resource management.
Police CID who arrived at the scene, later on, said that they had begun investigations into what might have caused the fire and where it might have originated, cameras located on the ground floor of the building that might have shed more light on the investigations were destroyed in the fire.
Re-echoing his determination to restore the building back to its former glory, Pro. Nawangwe said they are going to engage engineers from the ministry of works to carry out structural damage assessment which will guide their decision to either completely demolish the building or add onto the remaining structure.
According to Prof. Nawangwe, the original blueprints of the building are still intact at the estate’s department and they will be consulted during any construction works.
Following her visit to the university on Sunday, the First Lady also the Minister of education and sports, instructed that an immediate and fast investigation be carried out to ascertain what caused the fire outbreak because it was very unexpected and also promised to talk to President Yoweri Museveni to see that government restores Makerere’s iconic building and hopes that there will be another building set up to replace the old structure.