27 February 2002

Kenya: Kyanguli Fire Tragedy: Student Hatched Scheme

A former Kyanguli Secondary School student charged with the murder of 67 colleagues allegedly hatched a plot to burn one of the dormitories because of frustrations by the administration.

Davies Otieno Onyango allegedly said problems at the school started when a former headmaster, a Mr Ndetto, was transferred at the beginning of 2000 and replaced by Mr David Kiilu.

The allegations were contained in a confession statement Onyango made to the police on April 3 regarding the death of his 67 colleagues in a devastating fire.

The statement was read in court before Justice Robert Mutitu by Police Inspector Aggrey Abuogi.

Onyango and Felix Mambo Ngumbao have denied murdering their colleagues last March 25 at the school when a fierce fire devastated a dormitory.

Onyango said he hatched the plan to burn the dormitory and sold the idea to Ngumbao. He further said they wanted the dormitory burned when students were in classes for preps. Saying the student population was unhappy with the transfer, Onyango said it is then that they noticed a negative attitude by the administration.

He said the students protested and went on strike seeking the transfer of Kiilu adding, "the headmaster instead called in the police during which the students were injured as they fled".

The officer recalled tension between students and administration when the 2000 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination results were cancelled.

He said the headmaster only accepted 30 students to repeat saying the rest were indisciplined.

He said the plan to burn the dormitory was hatched last March 20 when he and Ngumbao agreed to buy jerricans of petrol and match boxes. Both of them agreed to raise money, adding Ngumbao raised Sh600 while he raised Sh450. Onyango said they bought 15 litres of petrol in Machakos town which they carried to school adding that the petrol was locked in a metallic box in a dormitory.

He said on the fateful day, Joshua Solonka who had been recruited, told them he would burn the dormitory since they had failed.

Ngumbao has objected to the statement saying it was obtained through use of violence, threats and inducements. Hearing continues.

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