Makerere disowns student who claims to make teargas

Monday September 26 2016
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Samuel Mugarura demonstrates the effectiveness of one of his tear gas canisters.

KAMPALA- A Makerere University student who claims to have made teargas from local materials has been disowned by his lecturers after police said they would arrest him.

Samuel Mugarura, 23, a third year student of Bachelor of Sciences, shook the country and caught the attention of security agencies after he on Sunday blasted what he said was a home-made teargas canister.

In an interview yesterday, Mr Mugarura told this newspaper that he can also make smoke bombs and would be happy to benefit from government funding with a prospect of industry-scale production of the explosives.

He again yesterday demonstrated in an open field in Kajjansi, outside Kampala, how the explosives work, claiming each detonation round consumes materials worth Shs400, 000.

“We spend a lot of money on importing teargas. Why should police be jealous of my innovations instead of supporting me?” Mr Mugarura said, claiming that he has spent Shs3.4m over the last two years to locally buy the ingredients.

Makerere University, buoyed by science research funding under the presidential innovation fund, has rolled out the electric Kiira EV car and Kayoola bus as flagship innovations on the campus.
But after police arrested Mr Mugarura early this month, released him on bond and vowed to re-arrest him if he continues “hoodwinking” the public, his teachers have disowned that they gave him the knowledge to make the explosives.

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Dr John Wasswa, the head of the Chemistry department, a unit under the College of Natural Science (CONAS) that investigates the structure and reactions of substances of matter, said Mr Mugarura specialises in plant science and he could not claim to make teargas or smoke bombs.

“Mugarura is a student of botany, and not chemistry. He cannot claim to be making bombs,” Dr Wasswa said, adding: “We need to see his work, but for now, he is just claiming.”

Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Emilian Kayima said they had confiscated a teargas canister at Mr Mugarura’s residence, which the government chief chemist is analysing to establish the contents. The student, however, denied during interrogation by police that the said canister was recovered from him.

“After (the government findings), we will either leave him or arrest him,” Mr Kayima added. Teargas is Uganda police’s widely used tactic in crowd control, and the Force each year spends millions of shillings to procure it.

Prof Muhammad Ntale, a former head of the Chemistry department at Makerere University, said although teargas is easy to make, the university is not into such business and “Mugarura could be out for cheap publicity” or “doing such things on his own”.

“Theoretically, we know the compositions of bombs or teargas, but making them is beyond him,” Prof Ntale said.

Mr Mugarura told this newspaper that he is a self-taught teargas and smoke-bomb maker, having researched about the explosives for the last two years.

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