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The Rakai Fire Case: A Testimony of Tragedy and Treachery

In the latest hearing at the Masaka High Court, the court delved deeper into the tragic event at St Bernard’s Secondary School in Rakai District. The first state witness provided testimony that the fire, which led to the death of 10 students and injuries to around 36, was a result of intentional arson, not an electrical malfunction.

Steven Samuel Kibuuka, the principal government analyst, addressed Judge Victoria Nakintu Katamba with findings from the Directorate of Government Analytical Laboratory (DGAL). The evidence indicated that unknown perpetrators used petrol to ignite the fire, as suggested by hydrocarbon traces in the debris and a broken dormitory window, likely the point where the fire-starting substance was introduced.

The court also heard from Rashid Bbosa, a student who survived, about his attempts to wake and evacuate his fellow students, only to find the dormitory doors locked from the outside, trapping them as the fire spread.

The prosecution’s case included a report from the government lab, which was later questioned by the defense for the clarity of its images, leading to a call for more detailed, colored photographs.

Under cross-examination, Kibuuka admitted that the investigation did not rule out the possibility of an electrical short circuit, a detail that was not thoroughly investigated by the DGAL.

The case has been postponed to April 16, to allow the prosecution to bring in more witnesses. The amended charge sheet accuses three students from the school and a local resident of 48 counts, including murder, attempted murder, arson, and attempted arson, in connection with the November 11, 2018, fire that resulted in the deaths of Remigious Tamale and nine other students. The accused are currently held at Masaka Central Prison awaiting further trial.


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