At around 12am, fire gutted the 98 year- old main administration building at Makerere University destroying records and property worth millions of shillings.
The Main Building with its unique 20th century British architecture is easily Makerere’s most recognizable symbol and was constructed with funds from the Colonial Development house and was completed in 1941 under the leadership of George C. Turner, the Principal, Makerere College (1939-46).
However, the Sunday morning fire is said to have started from the roof spreading to floors that house both records and finance departments.
By 10am, over nine hours later, the Fire Brigade and Rescue Services Directorate of the Uganda Police was still grappling with the fire.
Over five fire tenders were deployed to put out the fire that was still raging on.
On Sunday morning, the First Lady who also doubles as the Education Minister, Janet Museveni met with officials from the university led by the Vice Chancellor, Prof.Barnabas Nawangwe in a closed door meeting to get detailed information about the fire.
Journalists were not allowed to cover the meeting.
“This fire started past mid night in the roof of the office of the public relations department, went down to the university secretary’s office, spread to the southern wing which houses the records. We have lost mainly the records,” said Alex Kakooza, the Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary later after the meeting.
Just like many have described it, Kakooza noted that the university has not lost only the build but an iconic figure that it presented.
“This is an iconic building not only in this country but world over. You could be the most recognizable building in this country and you can talk of Makerere University and don’t mention the Ivory Tower,” he said.
According to Prof.Buyinza Mukadasi, the Director of Research and Graduate Training the building was the identity and heritage of the country’s main university.
“There are not many buildings of that nature still standing in Uganda. There is no amount of money that can give the satisfaction one could get with that building. We are now a society without a history because it was part of the civilization of the country,” Buyinza said.
The professor explained that having spent almost his entire employment time at Makerere, the main building was a source of satisfaction by a mere looking at it noting that a lot has been lost.
“No amount of resources or investment can give you the pride that the building had. It was a point of reference to many people not only in Uganda but the world at large.”
For 72 -year -old Simon Ssagala Mulindwa, the former manager in charge of the Makerere University printer, the building was a source of pride to very many big shots in Africa who studied at the university.
“Many former Presidents including Kibaki, Obote and many others in Africa studied here and by a mere looking at the building, they always felt proud. The pride will be no more,”Mulindwa said.
According to sources and some eyewitnesses, investigations will mostly zero down to where the fire started.
Eyewitnesses who preferred anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, the cause of the fire being an electricity circuit has been ruled out since nothing of the sort ever happened.
The Police Crime Investigations Director, AIGP Grace Akullo told journalists that investigations into the fire have kicked off.
“We have started to investigate the exact cause of the fire. We want to find out whether it was an arson or any other cause. At the moment it is too early to speculate the cause,” Akullo said.
The Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary explained that Police have been asked to expedite investigations.
“The First Lady has requested that investigations be expedited. After investigations, we shall go into the structural analysis to see which part of the building can be salvaged and what to be demolished,”Kakooza said.
“We shall later get the bills of quantities for the cost and government will decide on what to do.”
When asked whether a similar structure will be reconstructed at the scene, Kakooza said that would be the ideal situation but noted it would have modern facilities.