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Murder at Makerere

VC attacked, dragged to Freedom Square

As dusk approached and the situation appeared to be returning to normal, a small clique of students was part of the mob chased out of Kasubi Trading Centre on the west of the university. This small group,led by a notorious BA student in the Faculty of Arts, seized John Ekudu and forced him to address them in the Freedom Square. The Police were now on their way out of the university campus. As Mr Ekudu started to address them, they demanded to know where the Vice Chancellor was. Mr Ekudu had no choice than to call me. After talking to me, he left his phone on so I could hear what the students were plotting to do. Some were unsure where the Vice Chancellor’s residence was. Those who knew where my residence was led the mob. At about the same time, the Guild President had joined them. As they approached my residence, I decided to come out and talk to them in the courtyard. They did not like it; they wanted me to address them in the Freedom Square. I was reluctant to go to the Freedom Square, but the Guild President Basalirwa, persuaded me to go as a way of cooling the tempers. As we walked past the main gate to the Lodge, I saw a female from behind throw a stone at me, but it missed. Some of the students called me a Museveni supporter and that Museveni and I had murdered Alex Adega. Sensing that they could harm me, my body guard, Jesse Bwayo, secretly called the Police to come to our rescue. He too followed us to the Freedom Square.

Meanwhile, as we walked with the students to the Freedom Square, some of the students remained behind at my residence. They forced their way into the kitchen and ate whatever they could lay their hands on there and in the fridge.

Others went behind the house and mercilessly uprooted and ate all the sugar cane my wife had planted there for the children. My nephews, Frank Ssebuwufu and Sam Mutesasasira who were living with me at the time, struggled with the mob, stopping them from inflicting more damage to our property, but with very little success. The mob smashed the windscreen of a Fuso track belonging to a family friend, Sekimpi of Kiti (now deceased) and the Vice Chancellor’s old Mercedes Benz, UXZ 007, which at the time had been grounded in the garage. They also overturned my small pick-up truck, located outside in the courtyard. The Police arrived quickly and dispersed the crowd that was ransacking my residence. My two sons, Michael (22) and Martin (20) decided to follow me to the Freedom Square. Later, the two young men told me that if the students attempted to harm me, they were prepared to die protecting me. I admired their courage. The students had erected a platform at the north end of the Square and had placed the coffin they had looted earlier in the day at the foot of the platform. I climbed it together with the Dean of Students. After the usual testing, Makerere oyee! They asked me to address them. I had hardly begun to talk when the Police, clad in anti-riot gear, approached the Freedom Square and asked the students to disperse at once. Most of the students took off, but a few remained with me. I told the Police that I, together with my Dean of Students, was trying to calm the students but the Police insisted that we abandoned the assembly. Some of the students who were running away from the Freedom Square started hauling stones at the Policemen. This prompted the Police to fire rubber bullets and one hit my son Michael on the back. I believe the scar on his back will always be a reminder of his heroic attempt to save his father’s life.

Mr Ekudu learnt that the student who was leading that mob had a far more sinister plan for him and me. They had arranged to keep us talking until dark; then at some appropriate moment in the night, they would pounce on us and kill both of us, put my body in the coffin and leave it at the Freedom Square. The Police had arrived just in time and saved our lives. I was further told that, at first, the Police were not aware of what the students’ intentions of taking me to the Freedom Square were until a female Law student told the Police Commander that the mob intended to kill me and Mr Ekudu. It turned out later that the student who was leading that small but vocal group was mentally deranged. In fact, he eventually abandoned his degree course.

I had never been through such a terrifying experience with students before. In spite of a few who thought we were too hard on them, my relationship with most students was cordial and jovial. I always went out of my way to interact and share small jokes with them at the Main Building entrance, either as they waited to enter the lecture hall, or as they came out of the lecture hall. Besides, I was in constant contact with their leaders. A student leader was always free to enter my office. This incident changed my attitude altogether, as I began to see them as potential killers.

I fully understood their anger and concern; however, what I believe the students failed to appreciate was the simple fact that the University Administration had not invited the gunmen into the university and therefore, had no hand in the murder of their fellow student. We were as concerned about what had happened as much as they were. Besides, for a long time, we had been pleading with the Ministry of Finance to provide us with funds to repair the perimeter fence that had been vandalised over the years of neglect. Some parts of it had also fallen into disrepair due to age. In fact, when the Chancellor visited the university a few years earlier to fundraise for the renovation of Lumumba and Mary Stuart Halls, he had pledged to find money for the fence repairs. However, for reasons of scarcity of resources, the Treasury had not released the money.

What perturbed us even more were the political overtures the students were attaching to the killing of Alex Adega. Some people were making political capital out of a terrible tragedy that had befallen the university. Also, the students were well aware of the university’s rule that required them to be indoors by midnight. Students, who came back to their halls of residence well after midnight were doing so in breach of this regulation. However, on a positive note, the two females who had been kidnapped by the thugs had come back. Those who had the chance to talk to them said that the girls were a bit guarded when narrating their ordeal. I remember receiving information that after the gunmen had raped them; they dumped them on the university’s main sports field below Mary Stuart Hall. I failed to meet them, and they were reluctant to come forward. The Police too promised to hunt down the alleged killers.

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