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Police Report Exclude Arson In Makerere University Fire

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Investigations into the fire that gutted Makerere University’s iconic 76-year-old Main building has excluded a possibility of arson.

The building, also called the Ivory Tower caught fire on September 20, 2020, destroying the historical building valued at Shs 15 billion and several vital records and documents spanning decades that were kept in different offices hosted at the building.  

However, since the tragic day, there were several versions of the likely cause and source of the fire that destroyed the building which was mostly made of wood pillars and partitions. Allegations were pegging the fire on the different administrative fights within Makerere citing a human activity in the case.   

But a report from investigations that were carried out by the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) and the ministry of Works instead points to electricity as the likely cause of the fire.

CID spokesperson, Charles Twiine confirms the development but adds that the detailed report will be officially released to the general public by the Ministry of Works. Susan Kataike, the senior public relations officer at the Ministry of Works and Transport, said that the minister will schedule a time to disseminate the findings to the public.

In a recent communication to staff, the Makerere University vice-chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe has also highlighted snapshots of the report and shared several recommendations provided.   

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The recommendations, according to Nawangwe, include an overhaul of the electrical systems in the university buildings, provision of a fire hydrant on campus, recruitment of electrical experts, and a total reconstruction of the building, among others.

More clues on the report can be traced in the January 25 cabinet memo which indicated that the cabinet had discussed and taken note about the recommendations on the investigations into the fire.

Previous minor fire outbreaks on the same building were also blamed to electricity-related problems. For instance, In 2018, a fire broke out in the central registry, although it was put out before it caused any damage. The cause was later attached to old electrical wiring that was eaten by a rat thus causing a short circuit.

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