UGANDA, Kampala | Real Muloodi News | The owner of the Freedom City Mall on Entebbe Road, Mr John Sebalamu, has given a statement to the police regarding the events that lead to a fatal stampede on New Year’s Eve.
Police say the death toll from the tragic event at Freedom City mall has risen to 11. This is after one Brian Musenero, 16, from Ndejje, Wakiso district, and a 3-year-old girl, a daughter to Immaculate Nakanjako, also recently succumbed to injuries sustained in the stampede.
On January 9, 2023, Mr Fred Enanga, Kampala Police spokesperson, said that Mr Sebalamu had turned in a contract between Freedom City and Abitex for the New Year’s event, outlining explicit terms and conditions.
“The facts so far gathered reveal that the proprietor of the Freedom City mall made an agreement with Abitex with clear terms and conditions in which the organiser was to provide adequate security and crowd control for the event and venue. Under the agreement, the organiser was tasked to provide first aid, fire and emergency arrangements for the event depending on the type, nature and scale of the event,” Mr Enanga said.
Police claim that on December 14, Abitex was given the authority to organise the event, but with specific security and safety requirements that had to be adhered to.
The organisers met with the Katwe Divisional Police Commander and his staff on December 30 at the location for an inspection and clearance.
According to Mr Enanga, it was agreed that Abitex’s team would oversee management of the interior of the venue to include cash collections. Abitex thus employed private security guards and bouncers for the event, “who are all currently hiding since authorities are hunting for them”, he said.
The outer ring of the venue was overseen by police officers from Katwe Divisional Police Headquarters, including patrols, parking, and traffic control.
He added that officers from the police counter-terrorism unit were in charge of access control, searches, explosive sweeps, snap checks, and intelligence.
Police also indicated that Abtex didn’t apply for a fireworks display permit. However, the management of Freedom City mall contracted Extreme Events to display fireworks on behalf of the entire mall.
“The case file has been submitted to the office of the Director of Public Prosecution for legal guidance, on whether or not to charge other suspects given that they were carrying our supportive role to the organisers, Abby Musinguzi of Abitex promotions,” Mr Enanga said.
Inquiries were conducted by police last week with Mr Sebalamu, police officers, other security staff, event organisers, masters of ceremonies, ushers, and bouncers.
According to early police investigations, the tragedy occurred when the master of ceremonies ushered concertgoers to go out to watch a fireworks show, causing a stampede to break out as the crowd pushed to leave through the venue’s only exit.
According to Mr Enanga, they have also collected CCTV video evidence, testimonies from witnesses including eight of the fifteen victims who were hospitalised, as well as from parents of the deceased, amoung other evidence.
According to police investigations, Freedom City Management handed over the venue, including the kids’ play area, to Abitex on December 31 in preparation for the event.
“All the padlocks to the gates and doors were removed by the management of Freedom City before the venue was handed over to Abitex to show that he had full authority over the venue. The findings also indicate that Abitex was warned about the potential crowd control and safety concerns by police,’’ Mr Enanga said.
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