Disputes mount over Kampala mall stampede body count

RPC Charles Nsaba (2nd left) briefs the Vice President, Ms Jessica Alupo (right), about the stampede at Freedom City, Kampala, yesterday. 2nd right is the Deputy Inspector General of Police Geoffrey Katsigazi and Kampala Metropolitan Police commandant Stephen Tanui (left). PHOTOS | MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

What you need to know:

  • Mr Richard Lutaaya, who lost his son following the crowd surge on New Year’s Eve, says he saw “about 10 bodies piled together” yesterday after the mortuary attendants had initially told him the only corpse from the stampede was that of a female victim.

A grieving father, who was bold enough to access the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) mortuary, has told the Monitor that the body count from the Freedom City stampede could be grossly underestimated.

Mr Richard Lutaaya, who lost his son following the crowd surge on New Year’s Eve, says he saw “about 10 bodies piled together” yesterday after the mortuary attendants had initially told him the only corpse from the stampede was that of a female victim.

“When I insisted, they asked me whether I was brave enough to enter and check. I told them that I was, and they let me in,” he said in an interview yesterday, adding of his deceased 16-year-old son, “When I entered, about ten bodies were piled together. I checked and discovered that Brian [Musenero] was among these bodies.”

Mr Lutaaya, who was accompanied by his wife—Aisha Kantono, told us that his son came back from Owino Market where he used to sell second-hand clothes on New Year’s Eve. He then had a quick lunch with them before heading to Freedom City to attend a concert. He never returned home; yet it didn’t occur to his father that the teenager was amongst the dead from the Freedom City stampede.

“I was confident that he was not among the dead because his name had not featured on the list of those who had died,” Mr Lutaaya said, adding, “I went to various Police Stations, including Kibuye, Old Kampala, Central Police Station, but I could not find him that  is why I decided to come to Mulago today (yesterday).”

Mr Lutaaya arrived at Mulago Hospital at around 8am and embarked on a desperate search for his son. When he failed to trace him in all of the hospital’s wards, the KCCA mortuary was the next place his search took him. His worst fears were confirmed.

A beehive

The KCCA mortuary was yesterday a beehive of activities as people continue to trace missing kin and friends. Ms Prossy Mbabazi, who identified herself as the National Resistance Movement Mobiliser in Mpigi District, told us that she was searching for a friend hailing from Mbarara called Christine Kyomuhendo.

Ms Mbabazi said her friend had lost her two daughters (one in senior two and another in primary five). Kyomuhendo is reported to have made the long trip from Mbarara to Bwaise—a Kampala suburb—to visit her auntie. Kyomuhendo’s known phone was switched off, leaving Ms Mbabazi—who resides in Busega, Rubaga Division—with the corpses of her daughters.

“Children should not be allowed to stay that long in such places. They would not have died if they had left the venue before midnight,” Ms Mbabazi said.

Unclaimed bodies

A source close to the KCCA mortuary estimated that there could be about nine unclaimed bodies. Our source added that the majority of the bodies were taken to the morgue on Sunday at around 7am. We understand a number of corpses—including a couple that lived separately in Entebbe (man) and Matugga in Wakiso District (lady)—were picked by their relatives on Sunday.

Mr Fred Enanga, the Police spokesperson, told journalists yesterday that 10 people had died, eight of whom had been identified. This left, the Police spokesperson added, two unidentified bodies.

There are, however, discrepancies in the numbers reported by police and those shared by relatives of the deceased. In some instances where parents lost two children, only one was included on the police list.

Take Mr Gabriel Kibuuka  and his wife, Prossy Namulindwa who confirmed from their abode in Mau Zone Maganjo that they lost two children—Daniel Kibuuka, 10, and Daniella Kibuuka, 14—during the stampede. The latter (Daniella) does not feature on the police list. The police also put Daniel’s age as 14 yet he is—as per his month—aged 10.

Maria Namyalo, 30, was also identified by the Police as 14-year-old Mary Namyalo.

When this publication contacted Dr Sarah Zalwango—the in charge of KCCA mortuary—to ascertain the exact figure of deaths from the stampede, she said the person who had the registry was not present by press time.  

Mulago status

On the issue of admissions, Dr Rosemary Byanyima—the Executive Director of Mulago National Referral Hospital—said they weren’t playing host to any survivors from the Freedom City Stampede.

Dr Byanyima added that the victims could have been evacuated by family members and taken to other hospitals, especially those along Entebbe Road. She also ruled out the possibility of the victims being admitted to Kiruddu and Kawempe hospitals since the two facilities do not handle trauma cases.

Dr Byanyima also said that other hospitals could have responded to the directive of the Ministry of Health that requires other hospitals to handle emergencies and decongest Mulago.

“Some hospitals were becoming lazy. We raised the issue to the Director of Clinical Services in the Ministry of Health and he wrote a circular to other hospitals. They could have feared to refer them here because of the directive,” she said.

She noted that it is important for other health facilities to be well-equipped and staffed to be in position to handle such emergencies and relieve Mulago of the current pressure.  According to Dr Byanyima, the casualty ward at Mulago has a capacity of 36 beds yet the centre receives over 50 cases every day. Majority of these, she added, are accident victims and boda-boda riders hit by iron bar-wielding criminals.

Police list

1. Mary Namyalo 14-year-old

2. Margaret Nakatumba 29-year-old

3. Daniel Kibuuka 14-year-old

4. Ibrahim Kizito 11-year-old

5. Nakakande Hadijja

6. Shafik Mwanje

7. Viola Nakanwagi

8. Hadijja Nakamati

9. Unidentified male juvenile aged 16

10. Another unidentified body

Extra bodies

11. Daniella Kibuuka, 14-year-old

12. Nico Makubuuya, body found in Nsambya

13. Hikmart Nazaama, 12-year-old

14. Unidentified woman from Matugga

15. Unidentified man from Entebbe

16. Maria Namyalo, 30-year-old