Makerere University fire: Questions journalism should help us answer

Image from Makerere University Twitter account

This article has been inspired by a call from a veteran journalist and media trainer, John Baptist Wasswa to a WhatsApp group of former students of Journalism and Mass Communication at Makerere University who had spent several hours mourning the destruction at the main building.

He said: “Well well guys, we are all journalists and must get over the emotions and think of the stories that should be written now.

“What stories should the media undertake now?”

As we have said before at the heart of good journalism is asking the right questions.

1. What caused the fire? Any tentative answers from police, authorities? Any suspicion of foul play?

2. Will the superstructure survive?

3. About how many people worked on the main building? What categories of staff had offices there?

4. Does the university have any fire safety standards in place? Are there fire hydrants outside the university buildings? Do they work? Are there sprinkler systems in the buildings? Are there smoke alarms in place?

5. Is there regular maintenance of systems such as electricals?

6. What records were most likely destroyed? What records were kept in the main building? What records are kept in the main library and the senate building?

7. What is the state of digitisation of records at Makerere?

8. Was the building insured?

9. Has the university witnessed such a fire before?

10. What major fires in Uganda are comparable? The fire at Republic House (now Bulange) in the early years of the NRM government comes to mind.

11. How was the police fire brigade response to the Makerere fire?

12. Could the damage have been limited by a different response?

13. What next? Where do we go from here? Think temporary offices for staff, reconstruction/restoration of the main building, etc.

The article is from a Twitter thread by ACME ED, Dr Peter Mwesige.

This is a running list of story ideas. Should you have an idea you think media in Uganda should investigate, please comment below or send an email to

Peter G. Mwesige

Dr Mwesige is co-founder and executive director of the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) Email:; Twitter: @pmwesige

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