Saturday March 22 2014

Mukwano Road, a haven for robbers

By Peter Mwayi & Andrew Bagala

It is said that in Uganda, a crisis is not a crisis until it turns chaotic, a person dies or…masses rise and protest against poor service delivery. Then and only then does one swing into action.

On Friday February 15, Kajjansi Police Station boss, Joseph Bigirwa, was shot by gunmen as he responded to an armed robbery of a petrol station and mobile money shop less than 30 metres away from his workstation at around 11pm. He died on the spot.

The responses in the media were overwhelming, with Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesman, Ibin Ssenkumbi, vowing that police would “use all the available tools to apprehend the killers”. Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura, visited Kajjansi where he sanctioned an investigation into the matter. All these occasions were properly covered in the media.
To date, all that is known of the killing is that it was carried out by a notorious gang of robbers based on Entebbe Road known as the one- minute gang. It is appalling that this gang had carried out numerous robberies, killed many and the gang leaders were known, yet still, the killings continued and people lost their hard-earned cash and property.
assistant superintendent of police Joseph Bigirwa’s killing was the second killing of a police officer in a space of one week. The previous day, in a shootout between thugs and police at Nalumunye, in the outskirts of Kampala, thugs killed Special Police Constable Nelson Tugume. The thugs were using a stolen police rifle. The rifle, it was discovered, was stolen from Mpala Police Post last year.

Along Mukwano Road
Tales of robberies on Mukwano Road in Kampala are not strange even to a visitor in the city. Strangely, so is the fact that the robberies occur right at the door-step of an entire police barracks, and the headquarters of the CIID. In fact, the tales are those of the robbers taking off into the shrub that separates Mukwano road from the Nsambya Police barracks compound. The shrub is part of the CIID compound.

This area has lately been marked by dwellers as a no-go area at certain hours of the day and a totally no-go area at any hour of the night. Mukwano road is a busy street for people driving from Industrial Area and Jinja Road, trying to avoid city centre traffic. This does not mean that the road is free of traffic.

On the contrary, it becomes quite chaotic at peak hours. The robbers have taken advantage of this situation, waylaying drivers as they mill through the traffic. The prime target are drivers who are alone in cars. The robbers attempt to open car doors to grab anything valuable left carelessly lying about in the car.

In as much as drivers have learnt this and attempt to keep the cars locked, one cannot be too careful, even more have fallen prey. After grabbing whatever the gods have given them, the thug runs into the shrub, where, it is said, they share the loot.

Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe in his book, Things Fall Apart quoted Eneke the bird who said: “Since men have learnt to shoot without missing, he has learnt to fly without perching.” As dwellers have learnt that at certain hours Mukwano Road has become impassable, the thieves have now resorted to laying ambushes, even going as far as stopping cars, breaking into the locked ones, dragging out the occupants and robbing them.
The area has been listed as a black spot, and on several occasions, the robberies take place while there is a police patrol vehicle at the end of the road keeping watch and yet the thieves manage to get away. How they manage to pull it off under the police’s nose remains a mystery.

Cases reported
Attempts by this magazine to establish how many cases are reported to police or how many have been solved were futile as the officers in charge remained cagey on the information requested.

Ssenkumbi, said the information was a bit difficult to register because most of the cases of robberies are handled by the victims as minor and therefore not reported. For some of the cases reported, information is scanty. Also, as Ssenkumbi notes, the victims’ report to different police stations, making the capture of data a little complicated.

On the measures taken, Ssenkumbi says police deployed a permanent patrol vehicle to run patrols between the Nsambya-Ggaba Road Traffic lights to the Mukwano Roundabout. This, he says , has not worked well because the patrol vehicle is permanently parked at the traffic lights which gives the robbers leeway to cause mayhem on the remaining part of the road.

Victim’s account

Moses Golooba, a worker at Umeme Call Centre was attacked by stick-wielding thugs on January 25. They beat him up and took his belongings, including a bicycle he was riding from work. The first thought was to call police for help.

A Good Samaritan helped Golooba with his phone: “The thugs had hit me on the head and I was bleeding. As I run for my life, I got a by-stander who helped me with his phone. I dialled 112. My call was received and I explained to receiver what had happened to me. I was told that patrol car was on its way to rescue me.

They even promised to call back. But they didn’t,” Golooba says. After waiting for more than 30 minutes without seeing the patrol car to rescue him or police calling back, he called them again and again until he gave up. The bleeding Golooba then ran to the nearest police station.

He says what he went through changed his mind set about the police emergency call 999 or 112. He says when the officer he ran to for help at the Ggaba Junction and later on Kasaawe Police Station failed to help him, he got help from boda boda cyclist.“When I boarded a boda boda to take me home, I narrated the story to the rider.

He instantly made a U-turn and rode back to his stage where he got three of his colleagues and we rode to the scene. We found the suspects still at the scene but when they saw that we outnumbered them; they took off towards Nakivubo Channel. We also failed to trace my bicycle,” he says. Although he has given up on hopes of recovering his bicycle, he says he will ensure that the police call centre officers who didn’t help are held responsible.

Known black spots in Kampala
Not much can be staked on one’s safety in Kampala since even first time tourists are warned to always be on their guard.
There are, however, places that stand out in being known for always being unsafe. Some of these places are:
1. Clock Tower-Kibuye stretch
2.Nakivubo Channel near the New Taxi Park and Kisekka Market
3.Namasuba stage 4.Kalitunsi stage near Fire Brigade
5.Northern Bypass First Street
6. Lugogo Bypass
7.Namirembe Road 8.Kafumbe-Mukasa Road
9.Ben Kiwanuka Street