LDUs blow up fuel tanker while pursuing suspects

Thursday March 19 2020

Wreckage. The  wreckage of a trailer that

Wreckage. The wreckage of a trailer that caught fire and exploded into flames on the Kampala-Jinja highway after LDU officers reportedly fired bullets directly at it on March 17, 2020. PHOTO BY DERRICK KISSA 

By Derick Kissa

It was around 11:30am on Tuesday in Namwezi zone in Njeru Municipality, Buikwe District when bullets were fired, followed by a dark smoke that covered the area, causing panic among the dwellers.

The smoke was emanating from a fuel tanker that had exploded on the Kampala-Jinja highway after shots were fired directly at it.
The bullet-riddled trailer and fuel tanker, went up in flames, igniting a Corona salon car and a motor cycle that were parked close to it.
Mr Rogers Wangale, a witness, said Local Defence Unit (LDU) officers who were pursuing suspected idlers, fired bullets that hit the fuel tanker, sparking fire.

“They shot three bullets that ripped through the fuel tank, the holes in the tanker are visible. The LDUs need to be trained again because they act unprofessionally. One day, people will get angry and revenge,” Mr Wangale warned.
Mr Ibrahim Sunna, another witness, who was driving from Jinja to Kampala at the time of the shooting, said: “I was coming from Jinja heading to Kampala and I heard the bullets. I looked in my driving mirror and I saw fire coming from the fuel tanker that had been parked on the road. I started hooting to drivers who had parked their trailers to remove them before they also ignite”.

The big smoke from the fuel tank caused traffic jam on Kampala-Jinja highway for more than two hours until a fire brigade truck from Nytil was brought to put out the fire.
Mr Godfrey Waiswa, a resident of the area, blamed the police for delaying to arrive at the scene to stop the fire even after they were alerted on time.
“We have been here for more than two hours but we have not seen the fire brigade. If it was a demonstration, they would be already here,” he said.
Mr Hassan Muwanga, the councillor for Kyabagu Zone at Njeru Municipality, condemned the LDU officers’ act, and called for more training of the law enforcement officers.
“The bullets were fired by the LDUs at a dangerous spot where trailers park and they carry fuel, which is highly flammable. The LDUs should stop abusing their guns. I really condemn it,” he said.

Ms Hellen Butoto, the Sezibwa region police spokesperson, said there was no life lost in the incident and that they were investigating the matter.
However, Maj Bilal Katamba, the commander of the LDUs, who arrived at the scene, said the LDUs had only come to secure the place after the fire had started.
As owners of the trailers were trying to remove the trucks, they knocked the electricity poles that caused a power blackout in the area.

LDUs in the spotlight. LDUs have been on the spot over reckless shootings that have resulted into the death of civilians.
There are also allegations of theft and extortion levelled against the LDUs through staging illegal roadblocks and operations.