Fresh crime wave scares Ugandans

A man cleans blood stains at the crime scene where a paralegal, Ronnie Mukisa, was shot dead by unknown gunmen in Mutungo, Makindye-Ssabagabo in Kampala last month. PHOTO / ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • The response from the government to the recent attacks has been of fragmented and disjointed nature.
  • The brazenness of these criminals has shaken public confidence, with reports of armed robberies in broad daylight becoming common.

Tragedy struck the bustling Kampala City suburb of Luzira on Friday evening after a 38-year-old businessman identified as Richard Ssenyondo was shot and killed during an armed robbery.

The incident, which unfolded in the heart of the town’s business centre, caps a bloody month in which a series of killings have sent shockwaves throughout the country.

In June, more than 60 people were killed as the country reeled from a relentless surge in violence.

The spate of attacks have left people in fear and mourning.

The surge in violence has been characterised by, among other things, murder by shooting, alleged terror activities and armed robberies.

Robberies have also witnessed a concerning uptick, particularly targeting businesses and individuals.

The brazenness of these criminals has shaken public confidence, with reports of armed robberies in broad daylight becoming common. Residents are increasingly wary, feeling vulnerable even within the confines of their own homes.

On the evening of June 13, at approximately 7:20pm, an incident unfolded at Lodongo main market in Lodongo  Town council, Yumbe District.

Three unidentified gunmen launched an attack on a mobile money shop, forcibly taking cash and a mobile phone from the operator before escaping on a motorcycle.

Later the same day, Brian Nkalubo, a mobile money agent operating in Kyengera Town Council, also fell victim to a similar crime. Two armed and masked individuals assaulted him, stealing Shs1.5m.

The alarming trend continued on June 15, around 10:30pm, Sylvia Ndagire, a mobile money agent operating at Kitemu Trading Centre, became the target of ride-along robbers. Following her closely, they struck just as she reached the access road to her residence in Kuminemu Zone, Nsangi Ward, Kyengera Town Council.

The robbers snatched her handbag that had Shs3m and two mobile phones. Ndagire raised an alarm, prompting the attackers to fire gunshots, which left her with partial injuries.

The Friday attack in Luzira was also out of a similar textbook. In a statement, the police revealed that rogue elements laid siege on a mobile money outlet that was in the process of closing shop.

“The criminals proceeded to break into the shop, stealing a total of Shs72m. As the perpetrators fled the scene, they encountered members of the public who attempted to intervene,” the police disclosed, adding: “During the encounter, the thugs discharged their firearms, resulting in the death of Richard Ssenyondo and the injury of Betty Nakigudde.”

Two suspects, the police further revealed are currently under detention. 

Unexplained murders
In June, at least 43 people, most of them students, were killed when suspected rebels attacked a school in Kasese District. The government is yet to conclusively say who is behind the killings.

In a space of three days, at least six people, including five from the same family, were killed in the Greater Masaka area.
In the past few years, the area has witnessed several unexplained killings. Between July and September 2021, for example, at least 26 people—most of whom were elderly—died at the hands of machete-wielding assailants. 

The criminals also left 14 others nursing grave injuries.  It was no surprise, therefore, that what looked like a copycat execution style killing this past month triggered worries and anxieties in the area. 

In another incident on June 20, assailants stormed Katikara Anglican Church in Kakumiro District, and hacked a church member to death, while leaving several others injured.  

Last week, Parliament directed the ministries of Security and Internal Affairs to expeditiously investigate the killings.

The response from the government to the recent attacks has been of fragmented and disjointed nature.

The government’s actions have appeared piecemeal, lacking a unified strategy to address the escalating violence.

Responding to the Kasese attack, President Museveni—who at the time was battling Covid-19—said: “We are noting sending more troops into the area of South of the Rwenzori Mountain [to] eliminate any gaps … We are bringing news forces to the Uganda side as we continue the hunting on the Congo side.”

Responding to the attack in Luzira, Patrick Onyango—the Kampala Metropolitan police spokesperson—told journalists on Saturday: “The investigation is ongoing, and police are pursuing leads to bring all those responsible to justice.”

Critics, however, say most of the investigations hit a dead end. One of the concerns is the perceived lack of sufficient resources allocated to law enforcement agencies tasked with investigating the crimes.

The issue of resources was echoed by Security Minister Jim Muhwezi who recently told Parliament that the executive is constrained financially.

This was after the House and other notable leaders across the country sought answers from security agencies about the new reign of terror.

As Ugandans go about their respective businesses in the new month of July, they will be desperately hoping that it does not mirror June.

Assurances to that effect, though, cannot—it appears—be guaranteed. 

June 4: Rudeny Agaba, a student at Uganda Christian University was shot and killed in Kiwanga, Mukono. 

June 12: Suspected Karimojong warriors kill one, rape two women in Agago

June 13: Suspected armed robbers attacked a family of six Somalis on Tuesday in Kampala City’s Rubaga Division, killing one on spot and injuring two others.
June 14:  Thugs kill 64-year-old woman. 
June 17: At least 43 people are killed in a suspected rebel attack on a school in  Mpondwe-Lhubiriha, Kasese. 

June 19: Cpl Joseph Olaya, a policeman is shot and killed by armed robbers who raided a mobile money shop and soda depot in Mubende.

June 20: Unidentified machete-wielding thugs invaded a church and hacked a 27-year-old man to death. The deceased was identified as Rayasi Mugume, 27, a teacher at Bennitah High School in Katikara and a resident of Bugambe in Hoima.

June 24: A family of five, including two children are hacked to death.

June 26: Sylvia Nakyibira, 30, a resident of Buwunga Sub-county in Masaka was killed.

June 30: A businessman is killed in Luzira, a Kampala suburb, after armed robbers attacked the trading centre.