30 dead in Ugandan boat accident, toll expected to rise

People carry a victim's body onto shore at the rescue site of a capsized cruise boat on Lake Victoria in Mutima village, south of Kampala, Uganda, on November 25, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 25 November 2018

30 dead in Ugandan boat accident, toll expected to rise

  • The boat overturned and sank at about 7 p.m. Saturday night
  • 27 people were rescued overnight, lower than earlier reports. More than 90 passengers were on the boat

MUKONO: Ugandan diving teams are retrieving bodies from Lake Victoria where police say at least 30 people died in a boat accident near the capital, Kampala.
The boat overturned and sank at about 7 p.m. Saturday night, said senior police officer Zurah Ganyana. She said that 27 people were rescued overnight, lower than earlier reports. More than 90 passengers were on the boat, leading officials to believe that the death toll will rise.
Ganyana said the boat was in poor condition and had been grounded for some time. She said it did not have a valid license to operate.
The boat was taking passengers on a pleasure cruise on Lake Victoria, a popular weekend activity for young people in Kampala, when it capsized close to shore.
Early Sunday a police helicopter hovered low over the spot where the boat sank, as a team of divers searched for bodies under calm waters. As the death toll rose, so did the crowd of onlookers at a beach abutting a quiet village outside Kampala.
Police carried victims in tarpaulins and hauled them into a waiting truck, occasionally drawing loud wails from some of the onlookers. One young woman, seeing a victim she apparently recognized, collapsed and was rushed to hospital.
Witnesses who were there on Saturday night said they heard people calling for help as they tried to stay afloat and others tried to swim ashore. Many were women.
“They were shouting ‘Help us! Help us!’ and the boat was sinking very quickly,” said Sam Tukei, one of several local men who used fishermen’s canoes to rescue people. “By the time the police came we had saved many people.”
One reason many people died so close to shore was likely “intoxication,” said Asuman Mugenyi, national director of police operations. Citing the accounts of some survivors, he said there was a good number of life jackets aboard the doomed vessel that passengers neglected to wear.
The boat’s passengers, in a party mood halfway through their journey, likely panicked when the vessel started to sink, he said.
The boat is believed to have been on a routine weekend cruise that is popular among some young Ugandans. Victims include the couple who owned the boat, according to police officer Ganyana.
Boat accidents are increasingly common on East Africa’s major lakes including Lake Victoria, which is surrounded by Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.
More than 200 people were killed in a Tanzanian ferry disaster in September, with officials saying it had been dangerously overcrowded.


Karzai urges Ghani to drop truce as pre-condition for talks with Taliban

Updated 45 min 11 sec ago

Karzai urges Ghani to drop truce as pre-condition for talks with Taliban

  • Ex-president says Taliban offer to reduce violence a ‘major development’

KABUL: Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has urged President Ashraf Ghani to drop the pre-condition of cease-fire to begin talks with the Taliban amid high hope that the US and Taliban delegates will sign a deal following more than a year of secret discussions.

Speaking in an interview with BBC local service, Karzai said the government “should not block intra-Afghan dialogue under the pretext of cease-fire.” He said the Taliban offer for reduction in violence as the group says is nearing to ink the deal with American diplomats in Qatar, was a “major development.”

He said Ghani needed to accept the Taliban offer.

Ghani says truce is a must ahead of starting any negotiations with the Taliban calling reduction in violence a general term and arguing that such a call by the Taliban political leaders in Qatar only goes to show that they have control over field commanders back in Afghanistan.

The Taliban say the group will announce truce when the intra-Afghan dialogue begins which will happen after Washington sets timetable for withdrawal of the troops.

Washington at least on one occasion called off the talks with the Taliban in Qatar due to Taliban attacks back in Afghanistan as discussions continued in Qatar despite none of the warring sides having committed to halt offensives during the talks.

Ghani’s government has been sidelined from all rounds of talks between the Taliban delegates and US diplomats led by Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar. There has also been rift between Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who shares power with the president in the National Unity Government, on the pre-condition of cease-fire.

Unlike Ghani, Abdullah is happy with reduction of violence. Talking in a meeting of council of ministers, Abdullah on Monday indirectly said Ghani had taken the peace process in his monopoly.

 “Peace is not one person’s monopoly, one person’s wish — but it is a collective desire, and the people of Afghanistan have the right to take a position regarding the peace process,” said Abdullah.