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Freedom City death toll rises to 11 as police slap 10 more counts against Abitex

The revellers before the stampede at Freedom City

The revellers before the stampede at Freedom City

The death toll from Freedom City Mall January 1 stampede has increased to 11 after an unnamed 3-year-old girl also passed on.

The girl's passing comes after last week's passing of another victim, Brian Musenero, 16, who was a resident of Ndejje, Wakiso district. Out of the 11 fatalities, at least eight are minors. Now, police say after interviewing eyewitnesses and collecting more evidence they are now preferring 10 more counts against music promoter Abby Musinguzi aka Abtex, the organiser of the festival that resulted in 11 fatalities and left eight others hospitalised.

Earlier on, Abtex had been charged with nine counts of rash and negligence which resulted in the death of people. Abitex is accused of among others; deploying unqualified bouncers who let in unaccompanied minors, filling the venue beyond capacity, and failing on crowd control after closing all exit gates except one.

Freedom City proprietor John Sebalamu told police in a statement that he has no case to answer for whatever happened on New Year’s Day night because he did everything as guided by police and handed over the full responsibility of the venue to Musinguzi. He denied closing the five other exit and entrance gates insisting that he opened all of them and gave the keys to Musinguzi and his team.

Sebalamu said that the fireworks which sparked off the stampede were procured by Freedom City management for the entire facility. He hastens to add that they had no arrangement with Abitex that he would ask merrymakers to go out and watch fireworks.

“I gave him full responsibility with very clear terms and conditions. In condition number five, we tasked the organizers to provide adequate security for the event and venue. We handed him all the keys after a meeting with security,” Sebalamu told detectives.

It has since been established that Musinguzi got police clearance on December 14 and the final security meeting was held on December 30, with the area district police commander. Sebalamu presented a signed agreement with Abitex Promotions. Security and organizers allegedly agreed that the inner ring for gate collections would be managed by the organizers and that was why bouncers were deployed to help in checking entrance tickets.

Efforts to speak to Musinguzi's lawyer Erias Lukwago were futile as calls were not picked up and text messages had not been responded to by press time. But Enanga said they have reviewed CCTV footage showing that the venue had over 20,000 partygoers instead of the 15,000 capacity.

Francis Juuko, the night's emcee who allegedly urged people to walk out to watch the fireworks display was arrested over the weekend from Mityana where he was allegedly hiding.

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