SMACK remembers a 50-year jubilation that turned tragic
What you need to know:
Every year, St Mary’s College Kisubi remembers its students who has passed on. However, the 12 students that met their death on their way from a football game now 50 years ago, always stands out.
The Greeks and Romans, as it is with Africans, believed that human experience and destiny is controlled by supernatural forces. And that the hand of fate can be cruel. Therefore, it is not far-fetched that a moment of happiness would be the stage for a tragic event; a celebration of victory meshing into an occasion of sorrow.
One evening, a bus, van, lorry and cars carrying teachers and students on their way back from a football tournament were mistaken for a group of political agitators by a company of soldiers, who were travelling in the opposite direction. The situation was not helped by the tense political atmosphere at the time during these events unfolded.
It was 1964 and the relationship between the central government and Buganda Kingdom was deteriorating. Ironically, Kabaka Edward Muteesa was then ceremonial President of Uganda, while government was headed by an executive Prime Minister, Apollo Milton Obote. What transpired between the two men and the subsequent crisis is well documented.
What happened on Entebbe Road on the evening of November 14 was probably a microcosm that could have been reflected in many other incidents elsewhere in the country. Notes by Bro. Paul Bourget, the then headmaster, and an account by Anthony Kyemwa (who?) provide a clearer insight on what transpired.
The latter narrated thus: “During that time, there was political unrest between the Central Government and Buganda Government…. Police had been stationed at Kibuye along Entebbe Road by the Central Government. And these (the Police), on seeing people who were jubilating and in a convoy of cars mistook it to be a politically motivated development. The stationed policemen informed the army at Entebbe about the developments, and, a force to crash those who were jubilating was sent leading to the accident, which claimed the students’ lives.”
The headmaster elaborate further: “Shortly past 7.30pm, staff and students of St Mary‘s College Kisubi (SMACK) were travelling from Muteesa II Stadium at Wankulukuku, in Kampala, after beating St Henry’s College Kitovu, 2-0, to win the Buganda Senior Cup Finals. At about 12 miles from Kampala, where Kisubi High School is located, the school lorry was hit by the second of two army vehicles that were speeding in the direction of the city from Entebbe. At high speed with full lights on, and well in the middle of the road, the impact of the army vehicle made the school lorry skid off the road.
Upon being hit, the occupants of the lorry were projected over the top and then to the tarmac as the lorry fell on its side. When the driver emerged from the cabin, he panicked because the soldiers had threatened to shoot him. However, he went straight to Entebbe Police Station to report.
The driver of the army truck, which was ahead and containing approximately 20 soldiers, drove back to the scene. The soldiers’ lorry, which had caused the accident, had fallen on its side across the road. Bodies of dead students were on the road while the injured students lay in agony.
The army men refused to help with first aid equipment or to transport the injured when requested. As if this was not bad enough, a soldier was seen hitting one of the wounded boys, who eventually died. Another soldier was seen with his foot on the chest of another schoolboy. It is such treatment that accelerated their death. Two students died on arrival at Entebbe Hospital.
Meanwhile, Bro Edward Musoke and the Head Prefect George Bamuturaki, who had been in the driver‘s cabin of the school lorry, moved to start rescue work. But they were instructed by the soldiers to leave the bodies alone. They pointed their rifles at him. With his hands up, he pleaded with the soldiers to let him carry on the rescue work. Incidentally, people who wanted to help the injured were also told off at gunpoint.
Shortly afterwards, the bus with the other students arrived at the spot. They were jubilating only to be taken by surprise at the sight before them. One of them, C. B. Kaliisa reported: “We peeped through the windows to find out what had happened. As it was dark, we could only see the two lorries, which had overturned. As soon as one of us discovered that it was our lorry, which had been involved in the accident, unanimous cries rang out. As we rushed out, we were stunned at the sight of horror. We picked up courage and ran to help our brothers in agony. There were streams of blood over the tarmac, scattered shoes of the victims, and fragmented pieces from the lorry body. It was hard to stop tears streaming down. The students who had fallen on the tarmac were already dead, while those that had been thrown on the sides of the road and into the bushes were struggling.”
It is said the soldiers had tried to crash into other school vehicles, which were in front of the lorry that actually got an accident. So, this clearly shows the motive prior to the actual accident.
At the college, Bro Paul Bourget secured all available cars and appointed staff members to carry the bodies of the dead from the mortuary at Mulago hospital to their respective home areas. They were accompanied by security personnel to help counter any eventualities as some parents had not known about the tragedy and were to receive the news with the delivery of the body.
On November 16, a requiem mass was held to pray for the departed at Kisubi parish church. It was attended by an estimated 2,000 people who included government officials, representatives of various religions, medical and educational institutions, students and staff of SMACK.
Since 1964, every year a memorial mass has been held on November 14 for those 12 students who died and the others—students, staff and alumni—who have passed on. Today is the 50th anniversary.
One of the survivors of that 1964 incident is Eng JB Walusimbi, former Chairman SMACK Board of Governors and Katikkiro of Buganda kingdom. John Baptist Semanobe, one-time Fufa president, and Ambassador Tomusange, scorers of the two goals that won the football tournament, were in the other vehicles. The others who were injured but later recovered are: Edward F. Kyewalyanga, Anthony Gomes, John Kaboggoza, Augustino Makubuya, Ssengendo Waswa, Gerald Tamale, Gerald Serunkuma, Bernardine Olwoch, William Okirima, Marino Omoro, Rustico Ggayi, Thadeo Babiiha, G. W. Bamuturaki, Teofilo Ocang, Bro. Edward Musoke, J. C. Kyaterekera, G. W. Kakande, G. W. Kamussime and Peter Suubi.
Short biographies of the 12 students that died in the accident
Michael Owot (22)
He was born in 1942 in Gulu and had his primary and some secondary education at Gulu. In 1956, he was admitted to St. Mary’s College Kisubi in S1, but his stay was short lived because of financial problems. He left and joined Fatima Primary Teachers’ Training College qualifying as a Primary Teacher. He taught for a year, and went to Ngora T.T.C for upgrading. In 1963, he was re-admitted to SMACK in S3. He died a week before sitting for his Senior Cambridge Exams.
Francis Bbosa (18) – S3.
Born in 1946 in Busujju. Lost his father when he was five years old, and his poor mother took to care for him. In 1962, he was admitted to SMACK.
Egidio Obella (18) - S3.
Born on August 16, 1947. He was the eldest in his family. He was from Atutur, Kumi County. His father Faustino Iyama was a tailor in Bukedea and Kumi. In 1962, he was admitted at SMACK. He ranked among the brightest students in his class.
Philip K. Kirumira (19) – S3.
Son of Mr John Kibirige of Lyantonde village, Kabula County. He was born in 1944. Had his primary and junior secondary at Rubaga. In 1961 he was admitted at SMACK.
Joseph Yawe (19) – S2.
Yawe was kind, obedient, jolly, generous, honest, tolerant, simple, cooperative and friendly. He was indeed an intelligent person. He was the overall best student in Singo County in PLE.
Romano K.K. Nsobya (18) - S2.
He was born in the County of Gomba at Bukalagi in 1946. He was the first born of his family. On completion of primary six in Bukalagi, he joined Savio Junior Secondary School, during which time he was head prefect at the school. He joined SMACK in 1963.
Moris J. K. Kitimbo (18) - S2.
He was born on September 22, 1945 at Kamuli Mission. He was good at volley ball, hockey and swimming. He sat for his senior entrance exams in November 1961 and joined St. Mary‘s College in 1962. He proved very religious minded. He was member of Y.C.S, the Chapel Choir, The Music Society and altar boy.
M.M. Victor Kagaba (16) - S1. Was from Kigezi District. He was simple, cheerful and many students loved him. He had funny jokes with the tutors and was polite as well as obedient to them. The senior one class lost one of its cheerful, good-mannered and well-behaved boy.
Jack. Vincent Oryema – (16) - S1. Was son of Mr Cirilo Olange a Police Constable at Mbale. By the time of his death, he was 16 years. He was accepted at St. Mary‘s in 1964. During his ten months stay at SMACK, he was pleasant, co-operative, kind, and a lover of music.
Remigio Ssemakula – (18) - S1. Born at Kiweesa village about 20 miles from Masaka town. He started his studies late, but managed to pull through. In 1964, he was among the 33 students from Savio who were admitted to SMACK. He had courage and concern about the welfare of others, which he practiced even at his last hour when he helped some of his companions who were involved in the accident before he succumbed to his injuries.
John Kayira – (14) - S1.
He was 14 years when he died. He attended primary at Kamodo in Teso and after six years, he joined Savio School. He was granted a State Scholarship by the Uganda Government. Kayira used to call friends by their nicknames and had given himself the name ‘Electric Boy’, and one time he tried to make an Electric bell.
Ladislaos Kamya – (18) - S1. He was 18 years by the time of his death. He was born in Ssese Islands on Buggala Island, near the Sub-county headquarters.
This article is based on information compiled by William Kituuka.