In a season where terrorist groups are making threats against different countries, we must not be lax when it comes to our security and that of our loved ones.
On May 14, 2015, the Uganda Police Force issued a terror alert concerning intelligence information it had received about an al-Shabaab threat to the country.
On the local scene, May and June have posted the highest crime rates since 2007 according to the police. These crimes are mainly committed in urban centres but of late, there have been a spate of crimes in the rural areas as well.
Although there are many security agencies that are mandated to protect the citizens of Uganda, security begins with us as citizens, individually.
In an exposé by the Daily Monitor on April 14, 2015 (Do schools care about security?) it was indicated that in some schools, visitors could walk in at any time without being checked. Schools need to step up their security measures, especially at all points of entry and exit. Schools are particularly open to attack in the first days of the new school term when anyone can walk through the gates under the pretext of returning a child to school.
The traffic jams in town grow more hectic by the day. On some roads that lead out of the city, they have offered an employment opportunity for many young men and women who sell household items to tired commuters.
Traffic jams have also become easy picking for city gangs. These gangs post young boys on the streets to look out for unlocked cars. They are bold enough nowadays to open moving cars to pull out items.
Claire Mwesigye* narrates how her sister’s iPad was snatched as they were driving at snail pace on Entebbe Road.
“A man hit the tire and as we looked out of the window to see what was wrong, he snatched the phone and iPad that were on my sister’s lap. She jumped out of the car and went after him as he ran towards the (Railways) Goodshed. They both disappeared in that area.” The thief led Mwesigye’s sister into the heart of the gang’s hideout where she was beaten and gang raped.
Patrick Onyango, the Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson, says people should ensure that their car windows are always up.
“When you enter the car, immediately lock all the doors so that they cannot be opened from the outside. Drivers should stay focused and avoid being distracted by their smart phones. In that way, in case of anything, they are fully alert.”
One the road
An entire section of Nkrumah Road, from Rift Valley Railways offices to the offices of Roko Construction Company, in Kampala is a stage for Entebbe-bound passengers. Most of these passengers, who work in the Central Business District and in the Upper part of Kampala, find it inconveniencing to walk to the taxi parks downtown.
So they stand by the road-side and wait for personal vehicles to transport them to Entebbe at a subsidised fee of Shs2,000. In the taxi park, the fare is Shs3,000.
“There is always the risk of entering a car with criminals,” says Martin Bbosa, who has used the stage for more than 10 years. “Last year, my friend was driving to Entebbe and stopped to pick up two female passengers. Unfortunately, by the time they reached Kajjansi, they had robbed him of a laptop, a digital camera, and two phones. ”
Winnie Musoke, on the other hand, was alone at the stage when an posh car stopped to give her a lift.
“I was surprised because such cars never give lifts to anyone. But the driver told me not to be afraid. As soon as I sat in the car, he locked the doors and drove towards Gayaza.”
Musoke spent more than an hour fighting off the man’s advances, and luckily, he dropped her off in Gayaza without harming her.The fact that people are willing to sit with complete strangers in a car, at a place that is not a designated stage is alarming. This stage operates up to midnight, and at that late hour, it is common for cars to stop and pick passengers by the roadside.
Recently, online social media was awash with reports that a student at Makerere University Business School had been murdered and her body dumped on the Kataza railway line.
One of the rules of hanging out is that you do not stay out alone late into the night. Not only does your solitude stand out, it makes you vulnerable, especially if you have been drinking. Alcohol has been known to impair the thinking capacity of those who partake of it.
After attending a birthday party at one of the bars in town, Esther Kaala found that no one was going in the same direction with her. It was 2.30am and she was the only one going to Kawempe.
“I took a boda boda and we rode safely up to my place. I got off and thanked him, but as I opened the bag to get the fare, I felt a heavy blow on my head.”
The rider had hit Kaala with his fist, and when she fell down, he snatched her bag and rode off.
“Before taking a boda boda ride, make sure that one of your friends note down its registration number,” Onyango says, adding that, “You can ask for the rider’s names, but the most important thing is to get the boda boda from a recognised stage. In case of anything, at least it can be easy to trace the particular rider.” Additionally, before entering a bar, make sure that there is someone checking whoever is entering to ensure that no one enters with a weapon.
Security consciousness does not only apply when you are out of your house. In many neighbourhoods, there are petty thieves who break windows and pull out clothing or any valuables left lying on the tables. To stay safe, before you turn off the lights to go to bed, double-check that the windows and doors are secure and bolted.
Even though the police noted that there is a peak in crime in the months of May and June, and September and October, we can minimise that crime by remaining alert.