Kampala, one of Africa’s safest cities is not sure about that status anymore as growing crime rate engulfs the city of seven hills. It seems some people have become too desperate and are going to the extreme to get a little “Paper”. You can blame it on cancerous poverty if you want but the norm is outright scary.
Something about seeing a man take a hammer to the head multiple times brings one to the reality of a city walking into self-destruction. But that is not where the story ended. Not even where the story started. Kampala has seen audacious things done by bold people doing the unthinkable to satisfy their needs.
Ms Susan Magara seemed like an isolated incident but could have been an idea implanted into the minds of others on effective ways to get an easy buck. But is it really an easy one? Taking a life? For a Psychopath, maybe not. Ms Magara’s murder seems to have opened a new chapter in Kampala’s wicked unknown, but first, it gave us a Detective Novel opening. A small breather. That normalcy after a powerful opening. Just before the writer goes nuts with his pen, plunging his main character, Kampala, into an abyss.
The recent cases of abduction followed - like a routine - with murder must have caught your attention. Something within all of us is screaming danger around every corner. What is more concerning is that the motive for the murder of Maria Nagirinya and her hired driver Kitayimbwa is still unknown. From anything spoken about the two, they seemed to be individuals with very average lives. Nothing about them stood out high enough for them to be victims of a well-calculated plan to send them to the great beyond. What happened to these souls brings us to the realisation that nobody is safe. These thugs don’t discriminate.
Now here is a more horrifying reality. This crime trend is not limited to the little-big Kampala. It goes beyond the borders of the Matooke republic’s trade capital to towns very close to borders. On 3rd September 2019, NTV Uganda reported that two children had gone missing. One of the children was from Busia. The other, from Katwe in Kampala. On the 4th September 2019, a Senior three Student of Busia Secondary School was stabbed to death. People believe the assailants wanted to rob him of his Boda Boda. On 31st July, an 8-year-old boy was kidnapped in Kiruhura. A ransom of $100,000, that couldn't be met by his family, was demanded. His body was recovered on 13th August 2019 on his Grandfather’s farm.
“Fear not,” a thought may come by as you think deeply about this conversation. “ The boys and girls in Khaki brown are there to make sure we sleep well at night.”
The problem is that many believe they are part of the problem. For the past few days, the Police seem overwhelmed by what exactly is going on. They have a murder board without strings to connect the dots. They seem to be in auto-drive pointing aimlessly and hoping they can squeeze a truth out of the many options given. It is sad and honestly, unnerving to see the institution put in place to protect and serve, panic with what they have in their hands. Just as they start with one case file, another pops up.
Fred Enanga, the Uganda Police Force Spokesperson has had to appear on Television more than he usually does to calm citizens with what has become the new normal. Police Jargon stating that investigations are still underway. We stare at our screens while he talks with that look that, if put in words, would say, “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”
The police’s reputation as keepers of law and order, has taken a battering in the recent past, the opposition claims it is being used as a Militia by the ruling government, Human Rights activists have never stopped singing the song of their unending abuse on citizens, and journalists have captured, with eagle eyes, the continued mess these protectors have done in an effort to “do their Job”. This stampede over their image has raised dust high enough to stain their polished boots. For the first time in decades, people do not trust the police.
The best example would be the Ziggy Wine incident. The late Musician, friend and avid supporter of People Power movement leader and Kyadondo East MP, Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine) died on 4th August under unknown circumstances. From first sight and pictures that were circulated on social media, close family and friends that included individuals loyal to Bobi Wine assumed that their own had been tortured to death. Most Ugandans bought into the story and were quick to believe that this is something the Police would do.
Turns out, that wasn’t the case. The police came out and told their side of the story. From their investigations, Ziggy had been involved in an accident while riding his Motorcycle. The Fourth Estate jumped onto this sizzling story to really find out what happened. It didn’t take long for multiple media houses to gather enough information that suggested that the police was telling the truth (Some in People Power still insist on the other story. So, I cannot confirm this).
My point is that ease with which we believed an unconfirmed story about the police being involved in the death of the deceased. That trust we had for the Uganda Police seems to have vanished. The reason for this fade is not in what opposition politicians or Human rights activist say, it is in what we have seen the police do. The torture chambers and brutality the police showcased during the time of Kale Kayihura have taken their permanent place in our minds like a scar on open skin.
Fast forward to the recent murders. Another dent deformed the already battered Police. Turns out some individuals are not doing their job or would care less about what exactly is going on in the prospering crime sector. NTV Uganda talked to Francis Anthony Lubowa, the father to the late Maria Nagirinya who recounted a disheartening story about his efforts to involve the police in the search of his missing daughter - at the time.
“When we arrived there (Nateete Police station) we were shocked that nobody was caring about us,” the man who raised Nagirinya alone said on an investigative feature, NTV Panorama. “I was shocked. This is not Uganda really. A whole police station of that stature?”
The officer he found at Nateete Police station just after Midnight while searching for his missing daughter was preparing himself for a nap and seemed not to care about the matter. Francis Lubowa was then redirected to another station in Katwe where he admits, he found a more sober and helpful officer. But this raises a question that investigative reporter, Emma Mutaizibwa asked on that feature. Could the life of Maira Nagirinya have been saved if the Nateete station had acted by probably sending out a patrol for starters? We’ll never know.
There‘s more. On September 2nd 2019, news trickled in of yet another missing person found dead. James Kalumba, at the time his body was found in Kajjansi, had been missing for about a month. The story his children tell of their efforts to involve the police in his disappearance may not surprise many. It is a story we know only too well.
“We can rescue your father but the problem is that you are mean,” Christine Najjingo, daughter to James Kalumba told NTV Uganda. “That is what the officer kept saying. You’re mean, you’re mean, you’re mean.”
Kittu Kidogo, a motivator that gets the police to consider doing their job is central to their fading image in the eyes of civilians. Simply lose a phone, report it to the police and demand they find it. They will ask for facilitation which our taxes cater for. They are not even ashamed to say it. It is like a procedure. For James Kalumba, his fate was in the hands of uninterested greedy individuals who are supposed to keep 40 Million people safe.
With Maria Nagirinya’s death, the competence of the police was brought to question. The crime scene where Maria Nagirinya’s body was found seems to be the lair of death whose thirst is quenched by an endless supply from an unknown reaper. The locals admitted that many dead bodies had been found in the exact area on multiple occasions. That, in law enforcement, is what you call a pattern. A good detective, after the third or even second death, would monitor the area for anyone or anything that comes by to give death a stronger scent. But that is not what is being done. Clearly, more and more bodies are being discovered in the area.
The other small side of the story
Honestly, our police could do better but there are issues civilians do not consider. They have problems of their own that we may not understand. Their biggest problem is the Standard of Living. Many have said this and I will echo it until those in-charge hear it. OUR POLICE FORCE IS UNDERPAID.
Most countries have average earning police officers. In Uganda, that would be around 1.5 to 1.8 Million Shillings per month for an officer. The actual amount of money they are paid monthly is quite disheartening. Why wouldn’t they do the things they do? Give in their bare minimum and ask for Bribes that could enable one manage to provide school fees for his or her child.
If you consider the money they are paid and see the conditions they live in, it is horrifying to know that these individuals carry guns. A tool that can be used to do the worst of the worst.
Recently, the Local Defence Units (LDUs) were formed. When they hit the streets of Kampala they were clad with that “African Killer number 47”. This was months after their salaries were declared to the public. 200,000 to 300,000 shillings a month for people to risk their lives and handle a gun. What would stop a desperate person from using that weapon to commit crimes?
Also, the police lack more specialised individuals in offices like Forensics that could identify anybody anywhere. The police lab in Wandegeya takes months to release information on a specific case file. In most cases, a lot of people would have moved on with their lives. In-fact the police lacks enough information from Ugandans that could enable them cab crime easily. This information could be put on databases that would in the future enable the police to easily identify a culprit that had been unknown earlier. This information could include fingerprints, DNA, consumer products (like shoes that would enable forensics to identify a boot print and trace it to a seller), and many other things.
The Police is not doing enough to protect the citizens of Uganda and their interests.Truth be told, we may see an increase in such cases of abduction followed with murder. However, what has been done to motivate the peacekeepers?