Last moments of stampede victims

Ms Takiya Naluwooza, a mother to one of the victims (right), is comforted by relatives at the City Mortuary in Kampala yesterday. PHOTO | MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

What you need to know:

  • Relatives of the victims thronged the Kampala Capital City Authority mortuary as early as 4am to either confirm or allay their fears. 

Scores of families were overcome with grief yesterday after nine people were reported to have suffocated following a stampede at a tiny exit of an entertainment centre at Freedom City Mall, on Entebbe Road in Kampala.

Witnesses we talked to said trouble started when thousands of revellers were suddenly stopped from getting out to have a glimpse at the fireworks display used to ring in 2023.

Many people thronged the Kampala Capital City Authority mortuary as early as 4am to either confirm or allay their fears. Most of them had hours before waved their kin goodbye safe in the knowledge that a musical fete organised by Abitex Promotions and Emma Promotions at Freedom City—dubbed Party after Party—would present few or no problems.

Maria Namyalo, the 30-year-old proprietor of the famous Pentagon Salon in Ndejje, was one of the revellers who died at the hands of the wild stampede. Her mother— Ms Takiya Nalowooza—was inconsolable at the mortuary yesterday. Mr David Stride, a relative, blamed the deaths on revellers allegedly being squeezed into a small venue.

Ms Joweria Namayanja, a sister of the deceased, told this newspaper that they feared for the worst when a call to Namyalo’s phone was answered by an unidentified man who quickly hung up. A workmate of Namyalo would later bring the Freedom City stampede to Ms Namayanja’s notice.

Mr Julius Katongole, the LC5 Councillor of Rubaga Division and a friend to the family of late Namyalo, was quick to the scene.

 “People were forcing their way out through a narrow exit of the building to watch fireworks. Since almost the entire crowd wanted to move out at the same time, this caused commotion at the exit,” he revealed, adding of the stampede, “Some people lost consciousness, which resulted in the deaths we are counting today.”

At Mau Zone in Maganjo, Wakiso District, hundreds of mourners gathered at the home of Mr Gabriel Kibuuka and Ms Prossy Namulindwa to mourn the loss of two of their children at the hands of the stampede.

Ms Namulindwa slowly made it out of the living room where the lifeless bodies of her children Daniella Kibuuka, 14, and Daniel Kibuuka 10, were lying.

Ms Namulindwa told us she left home around 4:30pm and headed to Freedom City with her four children. On arrival, the children played and swam in the pool. At around 8pm, the swimming pool and other places where children were playing were closed.

“We had planned to leave early so that the fireworks could find us outside. As we left, the master of ceremonies announced that those interested in watching the fireworks can use a small exit,” she said, adding, “They found us in the line as we headed out. We were next to a small corridor near the upper parking space. As people continued to get out, the person who was manning the small gate closed it and ordered people to go back inside. That is how some people were suffocated to death.”

Mr Abel Musinguzi, an event organiser from Abtex Promotions, said by the time the stampede happened he had gone outside. Mr Musinguzi claims he informed security at the venue of what was happening and they intervened.

“I later heard the police pronouncing that some people were dead,” he told us via telephone.

When this publication visited the crime scene yesterday, a few employees who were around were in a sombre mood. They gathered in small groups as crime scene investigators processed the scene.

A team of about five security officers—most of whom were clad in civilian clothes—kept moving around the venue in company of some of the members of the mall’s security team and management. Three of the officers were seated next to the Kids Amusement Centre where one of them kept taking notes.

One of the DJs, who preferred to remain anonymous, said the incident happened immediately after Geoffrey Lutaaya delivered a performance to close the day.

“I was in the control room taking my beers. When I attempted to leave, I saw police officers caning whoever they came across. I came back and spent the night. I slept here,” he said.