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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Fatal shooting of 2 Kenyans sparks riots at Makerere

KAMPALA - Makerere University students yesterday rioted after two of their colleagues were shot dead at a hostel in the main campus.

The shooting on Monday night took place amidst disagreements between supporters of a Kenyan guild presidential candidate, John Kamau, one of two Kenyans in the guild race, and the NRM candidate, John Teira.

Ignatius Nyongesa, 24, and Brian Amoga, 21, both Kenyans, died when a security guard shot them in the chest at point-blank range. Amoga was in his first year studying law, while Nyongesa was a third-year student of commerce, with only two months to complete his course.

The incident occurred at 10.30pm at God is Able Hostel, situated in Makerere Kikoni, just on the edge of the main university campus. Eyewitnesses said Richard Hafasha, a private security guard, fired one bullet which passed through Nyongesa’s chest and hit Amoga who was behind him. The bullet also hit a Ugandan student, Amon Mugezi, and finally lodged in his neck. Mugezi is a third-year law student.

The bodies lay in a pool of blood for about an hour until other students in the hostel mobilised funds and hired a car to take them to Mulago Hospital. Mugezi is still in critical condition at the hospital’s intensive care unit.

Before the tragic incident, the nine guild presidential contenders had campaigned at a rally at Nsibirwa Hall in the university’s main campus. When the rally ended at 7:00pm, the contestants walked through various hostels seeking votes.

John Teira, the NRM candidate, camped in God is Able Hostel with dozens of his campaigning agents. They spent hours in the hostel, witnesses said. As the group prepared to leave, they were confronted in the compound by Nyongesa, who is believed to have belonged to Kamau's camp. He reportedly tried to hit Teira with a bench when the group rejected his calls to leave the hostel. A brief commotion ensued, which, according to eyewitnesses, compelled the guard to fire the bullet that fatally hit the three students.

After the shooting, the security guard surrendered himself at Old Kampala Police station. He was later transferred to Wandegeya Police Station as investigations continue, according to Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba. Residents at the hostel said although the guard was not a regular drunkard, he was "very violent and harsh with students". "He used to lock the gate at 9.00pm. Whenever you returned beyond that, he would not open. He would instead abuse and threaten to shoot you," a student said. She added that whenever lectures ended late, they were forced to climb over the gate.

The shooting sparked a demonstration, dominated by Kenyan students. The students smashed the hostel’s glass windows and by midday the vicinity, which was under tight guard, had been vacated. Carrying placards that urged the Government to probe the killings, the students marched from Kikoni through Sir Apollo Kaggwa Road to the main campus.

Julius Caesar Tusingwire, the officer in charge of Makerere Police Station, had earlier convinced the demonstrators not to turn violent. However, after an hour, more students joined in and the march became rowdy. Protesters tore up books of fellow students who seemed reluctant to join the demonstration. Reports indicate that about 10 male students entered the Faculty of Social Sciences and pulled down a woman’s trousers, threatening to rape her for not taking part in the protest.

The rioters also broke pay-phone booths in front of the same faculty and took off with dozens of air time cards. They attempted to enter the main administration building where the vice-chancellor sits, but Tusingwire ordered his Police officers to keep them at bay. They then burnt some trunks near Nkrumah Hall, from where they invaded the university main library and ordered its closure.

At around 10.00am, a group attacked the carpenters at Wandegeya Kubbiri roundabout and took off with a coffin, claiming they wanted to bury their colleagues in the university’s Freedom Square. However, the Police overpowered them and took the coffin back. Running battles then ensued between the Police and the students, with the rioters pelting Police officers with stones. Anti-riot Police, however, came in later and fired teargas, dispersing the crowd.

At around midday, some regrouped on Sir Apollo Kaggwa Road and the murram road leading to Kikoni, the scene of the murder. They blocked both roads with rocks and tree branches, forcing back drivers from Bwaise as business around Kikoni came to a standstill. Boda-boda riders had to pay money to pass at the road blocks. The roads remained blocked for about an hour, until the anti-riot Police came in and fired teargas. Offices at the university remain closed.

Anti-riot and regular Police constables stood watch over the campus as detectives in plain clothes monitored the hostels. An anti-terrorism Police squad monitored Wandegeya and the university. Top Police officers camped at the university to try and calm down the students. They included the deputy Police director in charge of operations, Grace Turyagumanawe, political commissar Asan Kasingye and Kampala south Police chief Moses Kafeero.

Prof. Tickodri Togboa, the university deputy vice-chancellor, said they were considering disarming all guards at the hostels and start engaging the Police to ensure security.

John Nzuve, the education attaché at the Kenyan High Commission, later visited the university. He said the High Commission would cooperate with the bereaved families to transport the bodies to Kenya for burial. The incident takes place barely a week after a Kenyan student at Kampala International University stabbed her Kenyan lover to death.

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