More than 100 civilians killed by security agents
Posted Saturday, October 12 2013 at 01:00
Survey. A random survey of records on killings around the country and especially in Kampala, shows that a large number of deaths are caused by guns held officially by authorised security personnel.
Last Sunday morning, one person was shot dead and seven others sustained injuries after a man working with a private security firm reportedly opened fire following a disagreement at a pub on William Street in Kampala.
The incident was the second to happen at Top Pub after a more tragic one in 2009 in which eight people were killed by shooting.
A random survey of records on killings around the country and especially in Kampala, shows that a large number of deaths are caused by guns held officially by authorised security personnel—a classification that covers government security personnel, private security firms and civilians licensed by the government to carry guns.
According to police records for crime incidence between 2005 and 2012, at least 115 people were shot dead and another 23 injured by licensed gun holders in 77 incidents of firearm misuse.
The misuse of guns meant to protect life and property by security personnel, has been a major outcry over the years with private security guards generally seen as the worst culprits. The statistics, however, show that the police and the army and their respective auxiliary squads, have been responsible for most killings occasioned by firearm misuse in the last eight years.
The army has committed 32 incidents of gun misuse that have resulted in 54 deaths – the highest number attributed to a security agency. This is followed by the police, which has had the highest number of incidents (38), resulting in 44 deaths.
Although the police have committed more shootings than the army, the military’s incidents have inflicted more casualties than the former’s. Private security guards have killed 16 people in six incidents, while only one death has been occasioned by Prisons personnel in one incident.
The two most deadly incidents were in 2006 when former Amuka militia members Alfred Odema and Simon Ojoga killed 10 people at Ogwete camp for internally displaced persons, and in May 2009, when Presidential Guard Brigade officer Nicholas Mucunguzi killed eight people at Top Pub in Kampala and thereafter shot himself dead. Odema and Ojoga were sentenced to death by the military court martial.
Kampala Metropolitan police spokesman Ibin Senkumbi said while officially-held guns have been abused, the number of victims is not higher than those of “guns in wrong hands”.
He added that some of the “guns in wrong hands” could be those hired out to criminals especially by private security guards.
Many of the incidents in Kampala seemed to occur around entertainment places and arose from moments of passion like the 2009 incident in which Lt Mucunguzi claimed to have been fleeced by a sex worker, and in last Sunday’s case that arose from a disagreement again over a sex worker.
Police admitted that the checking system at entertainment places is weak, a factor many attributed to poor training and arms handling facilities, among others.
It is not uncommon to be frisked while entering into a bar, hotel or banking hall only to reach inside and find the person standing ahead of the queue or seated by the bar has a pistol tucked on their waist, raising worries to the unarmed as to how the security checks guarantee their safety when the reveler they are seated with is armed.
“There is a problem of skills among security men charged with the responsibility of access control,” says Mr Ssenkumbi, adding: “Many of these places also lack proper depository facilities. If I go to a place with a gun and I am required to hand it over, I must be concerned about its safety, the people I am handing it to, where they are going to keep it among others. These force some people who carry authorised guns to negotiate with those checking to keep their guns.”
If the guards at Top Pub had been more strict both in 2009 and last Sunday, possibly the two tragedies would have been averted.
But it’s not only civilians that have suffered the fatalities at the hands of holders of officially sanctioned weapons.