Following last month’s fire that killed one of their colleagues, seven students from Kyamate Secondary School in Ntungamo District in western Uganda have been charged with murder, attempted murder, arson, and 175 other counts of malicious damage to property.
The suspects who appeared before Ms Mariam Namubiru, Grade One magistrate in Ntungamo, were remanded to prison on Friday after being advised not to plead because their offences are capital in nature and can only be tried in the High Court.
“Have you gone over all 180 charges? “You are not required to enter a plea to all of the charges because count one is for murder, which is only tried in the High Court,” Ms Namubiru explained to the suspects.
The prosecution, led by Mr Laurdel Twinomugisha, told the court that on February 26, 2023, Wilber Tumushabe, an 18-year-old senior three student from Kihorobo, Kabasheshe in Kayonza Sub-county in Rushenyi Ntungamo District, and his friends willingly and unwillingly set fire to two male dormitories of Mandela and Nyerere worth Shs 457 million, where one senior one student, Bonus Atukwatse died.
The other suspects, all aged 18, were identified by the prosecution as Herbert Joshua Asiimwe, Odomal Odongo Kanyesigye, Lawrence Twesigye, Arnold Tumwesigye, and Anthony Arinaitwe.
They were remanded in the Ntungamo government prison until March 27, when they will appear in court for a hearing on their case.
Their 16-year-old colleague, who cannot be identified because he is a minor, was sent to Kabale remand home.
The suspects are accused of killing Bonus Atukwase, 14, in a February 26 dormitory fire that shocked the country.
In retaliation for the alleged bullying and suspension of one of the suspected bullies, the suspect allegedly tied Atukwase to a bed before pouring gasoline on the two dormitories and setting them on fire.