The parents and governing board of St. Bernard’s SS Mannya in Rakai district have expressed concern over the delayed trial of the suspected arsonists behind the death of ten students.
November 11, 2021, marked the third anniversary of the gruesome incident which occurred on November 11, 2018, when unknown arsonists torched the Senior Three (S.3) dormitory leaving ten students dead and 37 wounded.
The deceased students include Charles Ssuuna (16), Sam Nsubuga (15), Timothy Bukenya (16), Geoffrey Lutaaya (21), Remegious Tamale (16), who died in the inferno. Others are Anthony Ssekitende (15), Hudson Byamukama (22), Emmanuel Kasozi (15), Sharif Dodiye (15), and Maurice Basiita (15).
Police arrested six suspects including four students – Dickson Kisuule, Alex Taremwa, Junior Mugarura, and Niyo Edison, plus Michael Tayebwa, a security guard and a police officer Corp. Steven Nzeyimana who were on duty the fateful night.
The parents are also disappointed with President Yoweri Museveni, First Lady Janet Kataha, the Minister for Education and Sports, the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), Internal Security Organisation (ISO), and the then Security Minister Gen. Elly Tumwine who visited the school and promised to push for expeditious investigations and trial of the suspects.
However, the case has since stalled. Neither the governing board nor the affected families have received any information why the case has stalled. Caroline Nabasaji, whose son Charles Ssuuna died in the inferno, says they expected the case to last about three or four months since Museveni and Kataha had picked interest.
She says that their promises to expedite the prosecution gave them some short-lived relief since the president and first lady stopped pushing for justice. Nabasaji says there is little hope and solace because of the delayed trial, adding that some parents have already given up on the case because of the constant pleas for a speedy trial in vain.
Rose Nalubowa, a member of the St. Bernard’s SS-Mannya’s governing board, explains that there is nothing much going on with the case since the suspects were remanded. She says that they have not received feedback from the investigating and prosecution authorities on the status of the case. She further explains that Museveni’s pledge to support the school to recover from the damage has never been fulfilled.
Moses Mujumba, the father of Kasule, one of the suspects, says that the delayed prosecution of the suspect not only hurts the parents of the deceased students but also the families of the suspects who have been on remand for all this time without trial.
He maintains that his son is innocent because he was already in custody at Mannya Police station two days before the dormitory was burnt. Kasule was arrested prior to the incident for refusing to go back home when the school expelled him and others for alleged misconduct. Mujumba noted that Kasule was brought to sit for his last examinations from the police cells and taken back before the school was attacked.
He appealed to the government to intervene in the matter for a speedy trial so as to have justice for his son. Some parents claim that the suspects were released after spending over two years without trial. Frank Baine, the Uganda Prisons Spokesperson, says that four students are still on remand will be produced in court at a convenient time for trial.