A friend held some choice command positions in the police. Once, while still active, he told me that whenever reports came to him about theft of computers or cars occurring at particular times and in particular style, he turned to a colleague. Within 24 hours on average, the computer or car would be back in the hands of the owner.
The helpful colleague is no longer serving, but the thing about him is that he had been recruited because, well, he had a past on the dark side. He was very handy until his fame in the Force got to his head.
No matter. The point was that if you look carefully, you establish a pattern to crime or certain types of crime. You then need to penetrate and break the pattern. As President Museveni says, all crime leaves clues and it is those clues that need to be picked up on.
Some officers are alert to this insight. According to criminal investigations chief Grace Akullo, the criminals terrorising Greater Kampala and beyond are not just organised in syndicates or groups. “They recruit and pay their colleagues a salary, ranging from Shs100,000 to millions of shillings, depending on the nature of criminal activity executed,” Ms Akullo said, according to a report by the New Vision.
Ms Akullo further said that the criminals also provide cars and motorbikes to facilitate the day’s work — more like the night’s work.
And, according to Daily Monitor, the gangs are split into smaller and more mobile groups of between four and seven people. I think there are many such smaller groups that do not know about each other, but are run at the top by some gang boss, mafia-style.
The Sabiiti Plan — which deputy police chief Sabiiti Muzeeyi was ordered to prepare and submit to President Museveni within two days last week — has to look hard into the security services themselves to establish if there are any fifth columnists. Not all kawukumi have been extracted. Organised crime and criminality almost always has ties to law enforcement. Chilling, but usually true.
The criminals use machetes, knives, metal rod, chain saws, and heavy-duty hammers to break into homes or cars to steal phones, money, computers, TV sets, and much else. They also kill when it pleases them. Or kidnap for ransom. And sometimes they rape.
These guys seem to be thumbing their noses at President Museveni’s security cameras planted in much of Greater Kampala. They will do their thing anyways.
Whatever happened to the Local Defence Units (LDUs) that Mr Museveni said would help cure us of crime?
Said Daily Monitor on the same day the presidential directive to the police leadership was issued: “Crime had dropped early this year after the deployment of Uganda People’s Defence Forces soldiers on orders of President Museveni. The soldiers spent most of the night patrolling, which senior police officers say scared away the criminals.
“In April, the soldiers were withdrawn and replaced by 6,000 Local Defence Unit personnel, who continued with the patrols.
“But several police commanders say the LDUs are almost vanishing. They put the number of LDUs that are effectively working in Kampala Metropolitan Police area at 2,000.”
Apparently, Daily Monitor reported, RDCs “have taken over deployment of LDUs, and most of them are now sent to businesses and politicians’ premises that pay huge sums directly to them”.
The UPDF rubbished the allegation, but it sounds familiar. Monitor should investigate it.
Another thing my now-ex-cop friend told me is that if particular crimes become frequent, go visit relevant prisons and check who has recently been freed. Those people tend to go back to their criminal ways.
The catch is that the recidivism (re-offending) rate in Uganda is pretty low by world standards; a credit to our prison system, however crowded.
In 2014, New Vision quoted a report by the African Journal of Criminology and Justice. According to the newspaper, “out of every 100 inmates released, only 32 would be back in prison within a year. In Africa, Uganda is followed by Zambia 33 per cent, Rwanda 36 per cent and Kenya and Tanzania 47 per cent.”
So, if recidivism is low, what is causing some immunised bazukulu to commit crimes most of which are borne of basic need? Could it be that the salary from crime is higher than anything they get while in clean employment, if they have the employment in the first place? As the president of three-decades-plus, Mr Museveni may have to answer that question in ways that go beyond announcing yet another round of purely law enforcement measures.
Bernard Tabaire is a media trainer and commentator on public affairs based in Kampala.