O n the night of January 10, guards manning Karuma hydropower plant in Kiryandongo District shot dead a suspected thief and injured another as they attempted to break into the facility.
Mr Joseph Bakaleke, the district police commander, said the suspects were part of a bigger group that tried to break into the plant to steal building materials and later sell them to metal scrap dealers.
Police reports from Kiryandongo and Oyam districts indicate that such gangs have become common around Karuma Town and surrounding areas.
Records at Kamdini Police Station in Oyam District indicate that homes, schools and other gazzetted facilities have also been a target.
For example, between 2018 and 2019, Nora Primary School, about 8km from Kamdini Town, lost property worth more than Shs100m to thugs.
These included a sign post, classroom doors, ventilation slabs of pit-latrine blocks, a milling machine, and lightning arresters.
“There used to be a grinding machine which was taken away by unknown people, lightning arresters, toilet doors and slabs have also been removed,” Ms Poly Susan Akot, the head teacher, said.
“When a guard was deployed, the thieves still continued to sneak into the school compound and cut off the school signpost and other properties,” she added.
Mr Sam Ogwang Alunyu, the Kamdini Sub-county chairperson, told this newspaper that they have been overwhelmed by the cases.
“All the rails and metallic reinforcement at Tochi Bridge have been cut and several private schools have been broken into,” Mr Alunyu said.
He said the sub-county passed a by-law in 2017 banning metal scrap business and issuance of trading permits to the dealers. However, it has not been implemented due to conflict of interest among leaders.
“We came up with laws but when you arrest somebody, you see police releasing them the next day without being tried because there are also powerful people behind it,” Mr Alunyu said.
Mr Nelson Okot, a resident, said during the rainy season, the bridge is submerged since there are no rails.
More than 21 suspects were arrested in Kamdini Town Council last year over allegations of theft.
Sixteen of the suspects once worked at Karuma hydropower plant.
While touring the plant in January, Ms Mary Goretti Kitutu, the Energy minister, said she was seeking the intervention of Security, Defence and Internal Affairs ministries to support the fight against the vice.
“They are stealing these metals leaving these structures falling. We are going to work with sister ministries of Security, Defence and Internal Affairs to see that we stop this practice,” she said.
Ms Kitutu said the theft of materials was delaying the project because the contractor has to order again for the stolen parts.
Speaking at Masindi Military Barracks recently, Gen David Muhoozi, the Chief of Defence Forces, said they had joined police to tackle scrap dealing.
“We have enlarged our intervention scope by interesting the police leadership and something is being worked on, especially from the perspective of a stimuli for vandalism which we think is with these scrap dealers,” Gen Muhoozi said.