For many years, Kamwokya slum in Kampala has been a hotspot of all forms of crime, ranging from robbery, to drug abuse and prostitution.
The curfew imposed during the lockdown over Covid-19 has not helped matters. Residents have continued to suffer attacks by criminal gangs. The most affected are villages of Kisenyi I, Kisenti II, Church Area, Central zone, Mawanda Zone, Conta Africa, Kifumbira I, Kifumbira II, Mulimira Zone and Butakabukirwa.
Mr James Kakooza, the chairperson of LCI Kamwokya II parish, says because the ghetto attracts all sorts of people, criminals hide among them.
“Most our residents here are market vendors, salon operators, kiosk owners, security guards, road sweepers, sex workers and majority of workers who live hand to mouth,” he says.
Mr Kakooza adds that the unplanned settlements have created safe havens for the thugs.
“They target people who go very early to work and those who are retiring from work. Even if you do not have any valuable, they will hit you until you are unconscious and they search your pockets for anything,”he says.
Mr Joseph Sande Kakooza, the chairperson of Mulimira Zone, says his area, which has about 50,000 residents, has the biggest number of blackspots where thugs take charge the moment darkness sets in.
Mr Alfred Kipra, the secretary for defence, says during patrol with the LDUs and other security forces during curfew hours, thugs use informers to dodge surveillance.
Ms Joweria Nanyonjo, a 34-year-old mother of four, who vends charcoal in Conta Africa Village, says her business is hampered by the high levels of insecurity in the area.
She adds that the thugs also often steal security lights installed on various houses in the area.
Mr Ssebata Kabuye, the village chairperson, says this is done by criminals who want to ensure that their area of operation remains dark when they are on “duty” without being recognised.
“Every night, we hear on average 8 to 10 women making an alarm that they are being attacked,” he says, adding that while his vigilante team has on several occasions come to the rescue of some victims, the nature of the village makes it difficult for his team to chase and catch the attackers.
Following the loud outcry of the residents about the gangsters, last week, Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) embarked on installing solar powered street lights.
The lights were donated by Phillips Lighting, Signify Foundation and Dembe Group to the Covid 19 National Taskforce.
Ms Martha Osiro, the programme manager at Signify Foundation, said the donation was a gesture of their commitment to support communities to improve their quality of life.
“Signify Foundation works closely with Dembe Group and Village Energy to provide clean lighting and energy solutions, which are also financially efficient in areas where
there is lack of sustainable lighting which leads the community to use alternative sources that are harmful to health such as kerosene,” Ms Osiro said.
Mr Patrick Ndekyeze, a resident, at the weekend said the lights have brought hope of curbing insecurity in the area,
However, he expressed concern that they too could be stolen if the community is not educated about their importance.
Mr Emmanuel Agaba, a trader at one of the places where the lights were installed, says the automatic lights have left the place well lit.