Brian Musoke is a resident of Kalaggi village, Nakifuma County in Mukono District. He is a business man with a retail shop that is about two kilometres away from his home. Musoke used to leave his home as early as 5am to arrange the shop before opening it at 6.30am. He would then close it at about 10pm.
After that he would go out to have a drink with his friends till late.
All this changed the day his neighbour, Justine Nakulima was attacked by iron bar hit men at 5am on her way to work.
Musoke says his life is more important than his business and as such, he can now not risk getting out very early because he fears he could be attacked by the iron bar thugs. Musoke now leaves his home after 6.30am and he ensures that he closes his shop by 8pm and thereafter heads to his home.
“When the iron bar thugs attacked Mukyala Nakulima while she was leaving for work, I was shocked. The time she was hit is the very time I used to leave my home too. What is strange is that she was hit by the main road side. I would rather get less money as long as my life is safe, rather than risking it in the hands of the thugs,” Mr Musoke says.
He has also gone ahead to ensure that even his close friends do the same so as to remain safe.
Though Nakulima survived, others have not been as lucky. People like Dickson Ssentongo a journalist, Violet Nalubwama, a student of Kampala International University, Rigan Amanya a boda boda cyclist at Seeta, Grace Bukenya a taxi driver in Mukono, and Saadi Kalyango a staff member at Vincent Alex Primary School in Mukono perished because of this nightmare.
In addition to robbery, theft, domestic violence, defilement, witchcraft, child sacrifice and other crimes that are associated with Mukono District, iron bar crime locally referred to as butayibwa seems to have taken the lead in the recent years.
Pedestrians are not the only people who are attacked. Boda boda cyclists who are hired by those pretending to be customers are hit. There have also been cases of victims reporting to have been hit by boda boda cyclists they hire to transport them. In most cases, nothing is taken away from those who have been hit.
According to the Medical Officer in charge of Mukono Health Centre IV, Dr George Kasirye, the hospital receives at least two victims of iron bar crime in a week.
He says is with the exception of those who report to other health centres or never seek help in hospitals at all.
The problem now seems to have spread beyond Mukono District. Districts such as Kampala, Wakiso, Hoima, Mbale and others have seen similar cases happening there. The big question that remains unanswered is who are behind this crime and what their intentions are.
Many people have tried to figure that out but the answers do seem not to be sufficient.
One of the councillors in Mukono Central Division, who is also the speaker for the division, Mr Susani Bogere thinks the major cause is the high level of unemployment in the country, drug abuse and laxity in police operations.
“Many youths have nothing to do and because of this, many have resorted to drugs that have influenced them into attacking innocent people in the end. One thing that cannot be overlooked is the laxity in police operations,” Bogere says.
Mukono Municipality legislature, Betty Nambooze Bakileke, thinks otherwise. She says with the exception of unemployed youths, who have been pushed away from the city centre by Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA), it could be terrorists who have changed their tactics from setting bombs to hitting the common people.
“I think these could be terrorists who could have changed their strategy of bombing to hitting the local people. It is an organised crime because all the people are hit in one place on the head,” Nambooze says.
She also thinks this could be a police strategy to seek for more funding.
However, Mukono Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr Johnfisher Kasenge refutes all these saying that what all these leaders are saying are baseless claims.
“The only way to handle this situation is through consolidated effort from all of us. Let us stop associating everything with politics. People being hit are all Ugandans regardless of their political parties,” he said.
He added that these are organised groups that need to be responded to in an organised manner. He attributes the crime to drug use among the youths, which he says is due to unemployment.
A heated crisis meeting held at Colline Hotel in Mukono in March, among the leaders, stakeholders and the locals in the district following the instant death of three victims, saw all sides accusing each other for not doing enough to stop the crime. Concerns like lack of cooperation from the community in identifying and reporting the suspects, ineffective police force and pressure from politicians for the release of the suspects, topped the list of the concerns raised.
At the end of the meeting, suggestions that could help fight the crime once implemented were brought forward. Among them was the registration of all boda boda cyclists on every stage with an organised leadership which required a defence team, training of the locals in skills of self defence by police, cooperation from the community and change of strategy by police to improve their effectiveness and efficiency.
Even with all the above suggestions that seemed efficient once put in practice, it is very evident that most of the brilliant ideas usually remain in word or on paper and are shelved after a while. Information about iron bar crime in Mukono District is hard to get.
Now that the crime has spread beyond Mukono’s borders, it is the duty of each of one of us to mind about our own safety.
Place where attacks have occured
- Kirinya in Bweyogerere, Kira Town Council
- Northern Bypass
- Kyanja in Nakawa Division
- Kisenyi in Kampala Central
- Namugongo, Kira Town Council
- Mukono Municipality
- Kanyogoga in Namuwongo, Makindye Division
- Nansana Town Council
- Mubarak Zone in Makindye Division