Kampala – The habit of celebrating whatever the white man has decreed is to blame for some of the tragedies that happen the end of the year.
In our days, we would burn car tyres, damaged plastics, and firewood among others to usher in a new year; it is all we had before the invention of fireworks.
But why the fuss, why do we hold the end and beginning of the year so dear to our hearts as if it was the last day of our lives or a birthday celebration.
In pre-Christian Rome under the Julian calendar, the day was dedicated to Janus, a god of gateways and beginnings, for whom January is named. From Roman times until the middle of the 18th century, the day was celebrated at various stages and in various parts of Europe on 25 December, on 1 March, on 25 March, and on the movable feast of Easter.
Not being so religious, am not so sure if I should add and say the day was set aside for Janus to eat some fresh human blood where rituals including human sacrifices were conducted. Since we have joined the worshipers of Janus, then be it, why do we get shocked when the day claims some lives?
In the Georgian Calendar, New Year’s Day is the first day of the year and is celebrated by many without knowing its history.
If this day was universal, why is it that Ethiopia is only in the year 2015, why is the Islamic new year different from the rest, how about the Chinese who have a different date for their new year.
Those are some of the reasons that have kept some of us away from such unnecessary excitement, for we do not conform to the standards of the white man.
Every end of year, many Ugandans look forward for an outing to join others in bidding farewell to the out-going year and to welcome another year in style. It is a tale of wanting to enjoy the outgoing year and keep awake until the arrival of a new year.
It is time for merry making and for those in urban areas a time to watch live fireworks displays. Before the clock ticks midnight, many are keen to go to places of worship to pray until something happens while others are anxious to go dancing, eating and taking a few bottles of alcohol.
By midnight their sense of judgment is impaired, some even drink into the following day; after all it is always a public holiday. Some are then called by spiritual forces and never cross into a new year.
This year’s triumphal entry into 2023 came with some bad news; an unknown number of revellers stampeded on each other at freedom city claiming the lives of many including minors as young as 10 years. Of course I am one of the few who believe the event organizers meant no harm, this was an accident that nobody planned for. However, it is now a subject of investigation for the Abtex proprietor has been arraigned in court, I hope others will follow him to the coolers.
To the best of my knowledge, there is no room for blame games, whoever was involved or whoever should have been involved should carry his/her cross and face the law.
The likes of John Ssebalamu together with the mafias hiding behind his back, the managers of the building, the other organizers of the event, the master of ceremony, ushers, bouncers, private security guards and commanders as well as police officers and other security personnel who were deployed to secure the event must be held to account. We do not know which neutral party will head the investigation but I want to believe Uganda Police is largely to blame.
The parents of the minors who perished in the stampede should also be tasked to explain what their children were doing at a venue for meant for adults. Charging Musinguzi alone will not teach any one a lesson. Section 227 of the Penal code Act applies to all the persons named above including the parents of the minors who died in the stampede.
The Section states that any person who, by any rash or negligent act not amounting to manslaughter, causes the death of another person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years or to a fine not exceeding seventy thousand shillings or to both such imprisonment and fine.
A few years ago, there were two bomb blasts at Kyadondo and the Ethiopian village, many innocent world cup fans dies miserably but the proprietors of these venues were not arrested and so are the event organizers. Then there was the mutima beach tragedy on Lake Victoria, followed by numerous cases of collapsed buildings. During this Christmas alone, many people died as a result of accidents but the government poured cold water on the incidents. Sometime back there was an incident where a fuel tank crushed along the northern bypass and killed a number of people who had gone to siphon fuel. The government never arrested the owner of the tanker.
When you hear government officials demanding for an investigation then you wonder what their intentions are. I don’t know whether government is playing its usual mind games but money is going to be wasted on an obvious issue. Reports arising out of such investigations are never made public, before long, Ugandans will have forgotten and moved on with their lives. What happened at freedom city can happen to anyone at anytime and anywhere. The impression being created in the press is as if Musinguzi intentionally caused the suffocation of the revelers which is not true. Many have not come to terms with the fact that it was an accident that was beyond any one’s control, or was it an act of God or natural selection at play.
People like Musinguzi have been in this business for a very long time and have somehow mastered the art of managing crowds amidst a lot of scrutiny by security agencies. Besides there are many checks and balances leave alone the long list of restrictions and conditions that they must adhere to whenever they stage a show. Of course many have blamed the deaths on revellers allegedly being squeezed into a small venue but who forced them to enter aware the place was designed for a smaller crowd. It is high time we learned to accept our own faults instead of finding somebody to blame.
A stampede in my view would only be justified where there is a scare but in this case there was none to warrant the commotion. The unfortunate incident can only be blamed on our usual behavior of being in a hurry to go nowhere. It is common with all of us especially pedestrians, motorist and bodaboda cyclists who cause commotion even where it is not necessary. We are told People at the stampede venue were forcing their way out through a narrow exit of the building to watch fireworks that never lasts more than 10 minutes. What do you expect when almost the entire crowd wants to move out at the same time? Commotion obviously forces some people to fall due to pulling and pushing, the result is a stampede.
For those looking for justice out of this incident, forget, soon the accused persons will be free and soon, we shall hear television and radio announcements inviting people to attend a show at the same venue. Whoever owns freedom city must be some big shot, we are told security has already vacated the so called scene of crime; soon we shall hear another show scheduled to take place in the same venue.
The unfortunate event is yet another chance for police to put in place unfair conditions disguised as guidelines on organizing, planning and managing events to be followed in order to avoid a repeat of such tragic incidents. Police has so far admitted having inspected and cleared the venue for the concert. However, at the time of the stampede, four of its five entry and exit points had been closed by some unknown person, that is what all the accused persons are saying.
A few minutes to midnight, it is alleged that the master of ceremony authorized the revelers to go out and watch the fireworks display but like any other capitalist, only one point of exit had been created. When stampede happened, several victims were trapped, they could not move forward or backward due to the narrow passage.
The commotion was so severe that only adults were left standing; the children were over powered as they scampered for breath. Some situation can only be termed as a voluntary assumption of risk, a loss falls where it lies.
Mr. Roger Wadada Musaalo, a Lawyer, human rights activist, researcher, and politician