Ugandans killed or living in fear over mafia threats

Tuesday August 20 2019

Prof Gilbert Bukenya, the former vice president

Prof Gilbert Bukenya, the former vice president 

By Franklin draku

The number of prominent Ugandans, who claim to be threatened by a mafia in government, a reference to a syndicate of politically-connected and powerful individuals who can plot the downfall or death of others, is growing.

The term mafia, which originated in Sicily, Italy, became popular in Uganda in 2005 when the then vice president, Prof Gilbert Bukenya, told this newspaper that his life was in danger.

He said mafias had deployed people to photograph his banana plantation, houses and other property.
It is now used as a collective to refer to bureaucrats or power brokers who act with impunity to amass wealth and can destroy or eliminate those who expose them or stand in their way.

Some of the leaders who have complained about being targeted by mafia have been killed, mostly by shooting or poisoning, but investigation as well as justice is hindered.
Some leaders in government and security circles who were shot after raising the red flag or live in fear of being eliminated.

Prof Gilbert Bukenya, the former vice president, raised alarm in 2005 when he claimed powerful mafia in government wanted to finish him off.

Dr Joyce Moriku, the State minister of Health in-charge of Primary Health Care, in February claimed that she had been poisoned but survived following expert treatment at the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya.


Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, during a press conference in May hit out at “mafias in government” who perpetrate graft and whose transgressions, she alleged, went unpunished. Ms Kadaga has also separately raised concerns over threats to her life.

Ms Idah Nantaba, the state minister for ICT, in May said Ronald Sebulime, whom police later shot dead, had trailed and wanted to kill her.
The minister subsequently said President Museveni had directed her to stay put at home as a result of imminent threat to her life.

Former Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga was killed in a hail of bullets near his home in Kawanda, Wakiso District, on June 8, 2018.
Prior to his death, Abiriga, a self-confessed mascot of the ruling NRM, had said he had outstanding cash requests and he had lost access to the President.
He also complained that mafia were trailing him on a motorcycle before gunmen killed him. He was killed alongside his brother and UPDF soldier, Saidi Kongo, who was a stand-in guard. Police have not arrested any suspect to-date.

The New Vision reported last month that the State Finance Minister (Planning), Mr David Bahati, had survived assassination.

Former Buyende District Police Commander, Muhammed Kirumira, who had a number of administrative run-ins with his employer for which he was sanctioned, complained that the Force had been infiltrated by criminals and mafia at senior and high levels. He authored dossiers and posted mainly social media about threats to his life.

Kirumira and his wife Mariam Kirumira separately reported cases of death threats to their lives at Lungujja Police Station and Jinja Road Police Station.

There is no evidence police took the threats seriously. On September 8, 2018, gunmen ambushed the police officer at Bulenga Trading Centre in Wakiso and killed him together with a female companion. Detectives later said one of the suspects in his shooting had been snuffed out.

During the August 2018 Arua parliamentary by-election fracas, Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, claimed that he was a target when security forces allegedly shot dead his driver, Yasin Kawuma, inside the legislator’s Tundra vehicle at the time parked in front of Pacific Hotel in Arua Town. In July, he repeated claims that his life was in danger over his plans to stand for president.

Andrew Felix Kaweesi was the an Assistant Inspector General of Police and police spokesperson when gunmen waylaid him at 9am near his home in Kulambiro, a city outskirt, on March 17, 2017 and shot him multiple times together with his driver and guard. It later emerged Kaweesi was fearful of his safety and reported the threats to a Catholic priest as well as confidants.

Another politician living on the edge is Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago. In October last year, he reported that his life was in danger, forcing police to deploy more officers to protect him.

Bukonzo MP Willian Nzoghu and Mbale Woman MP Connie Galiwango Nakayenze separately also told Parliament that they had received death threats.

Kampala minister Beti Kamya is another high-ranking government official on the radar of the mafia. In October last year, she said a leaflet from an unknown person was making rounds on social media naming her among those to be killed.

Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze in June 2016 alleged that she was poisoned after receiving a warning from a government official.
Ntungamo Municipality MP Gerald Karuhanga last September reported receiving text messages notifying him that he is next on the list of those to be killed.