Uganda Makerere University fire: ‘Ivory Tower’ gutted


Fire at Makerere University - September 2020 Screengrab from a video of firefight fighting the blaze

image copyrightMakerere University

A fire has gutted an iconic building at Uganda’s Makerere University, which is a prominent landmark in the capital.

Known as the “Ivory Tower”, an overnight blaze has left its distinctive white walls with blue-shuttered windows blackened.

Police in Kampala have started an investigation into the cause of the fire at one of Africa’s oldest and most prestigious universities.

The vice-chancellor described the destruction as unbelievable.

A photo tweeted by Makerere University showing firemen investigating the "Ivory Tower" the morning after the blaze, Kampala, Uganda - 20 September 2020

image copyrightMakerere University

“It is a very dark morning for Makerere University. Our iconic Main Administration Building caught fire and the destruction is unbelievable. But we are determined to restore the building to its historic state in the shortest time possible,”

Vice-Chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe tweeted.

Fire officers fought the huge fire from around midnight until after dawn on Sunday, reports the BBC’s Patience Atuhaire from Kampala.

A screengrab from a video showing the blaze in the main building of Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda - September 2020

image copyrightMakerere Univesity

Initial reports indicate that the fire may have started from the roof, spreading to floors that house the finance and records department.

A photo of the "Ivory Tower" before the fire - Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda

image copyrightGetty Images

A historian of East Africa, Derek Peterson, says the fire is a disaster for Uganda and for East Africa.

“The building holds student records, and the basement is full of archive files spanning the whole history of the institution,” he tweeted, adding that he had been intending to help organise a project to catalogue the collection.

Records in the main building of Makerere University

image copyright@Unseen_Archive

Makerere was first established in 1922 as a technical school and has grown into a widely respected university.

Graduates at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda - 2018

image copyrightAFP

Its alumni include independence-era leaders such as Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, renowned writers including Kenya’s Ngugi wa Thiong’o, academics and clergy like John Sentamu, the recently retired Anglican archbishop of York.

Related Topics

  • Kampala

  • Uganda

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