10 arrested over Ugandan school fire as death toll reaches 20

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Ten people have been arrested over a school fire in Uganda over possible negligence on their parts. The news comes as the death toll in the fire reaches 20 schoolgirls. Earlier reports also say two adults died, but later sources make no mention of this.

Police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba said the matron of the dormitory that caught fire and the guards at the Budo girl's school were arrested, but provided no details of their alleged role in the April 14 disaster. However, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni previously commented that there are "signs that there was negligence by the school administration." Nabakooba also announced a police reward of US$3,000 for more information on the blaze, although it is unclear if the value was given in Ugandan shillings or if the dollar is being used as an alternative currency.

58 girls are thought to have been in the dorm at the time, which had been locked from the outside. Some mannaged to escape by wriggling through narrow windows. By the time fire services reached the scene, 15 kilometres from Kampala, most of the dorm had already been desroyed by the intense fire.

It has been suggested by police that the fire may have been a vengeful act of arson, based on preliminary investigations, mainly interviews with eyewitnesses to the fire. Police Inspector General Kale Kaihura described the initial indications as pointing to "homicide".

A Friday prayer service for the victims, spoken at by Anglican Bishop Samuel Balagadde Sekadde, was attended by thousands. Sekradde spoke of an act of heroism by 10-year-old Yvonne Namaganda, who was able to rescue six of her fellows before poisnonous fumes overcame her upon her return for a seventh.