Govt lists new measures on dealing with Masaka killings

What you need to know:

  • The guidelines issued by Presidency minister Milly Babirye Babalanda requires MPs, district chairpersons, parents, and security organs to declare the attacks a public emergency.

The government has issued nine key security measures in its new fight-back against machete-wielding gangs that have so far killed up to 28 civilians in Greater Masaka sub-region. 

The guidelines issued by Presidency minister Milly Babirye Babalanda requires MPs, district chairpersons, parents, and security organs to declare the attacks in Greater Masaka sub-region a public emergency and reach out to the grassroots. 

The leaders have also been directed to use all means at their disposal, including the media, office and public communication tools.

Ms Babalanda told security chiefs in Masaka on Friday that the current wave of killings in Masaka may spread to other parts of the country, and asked leaders at all levels to mobilise the people to rise up and defend themselves against the machete-wielding thugs.

“The current situation in Greater Masaka may not end in Masaka. The actors are thinking beyond Masaka. Therefore, I challenge all our leaders; be they religious or cultural, to stand up to these threats and vigorously mobilise the people to defend themselves,” Ms Babalanda said.  

She was addressing a two-day capacity building workshop for resident district commissioners (RDCs) and their deputies, and other security officers who constitute the district security committees in Masaka.

Anticipating political challenges in forming vigilante groups under the proposed community policing or neighbourhood watch, the minister said: “You may think the evil plan is only targeting the President; yet those being killed are your very sisters and brothers.”

When Sunday Monitor contacted the minister on Friday evening to explain how citizens would defend themselves from machete-wielding thugs, she asked the people to be vigilant and work hand-in-hand with security teams, “not forgetting to coordinate with Local Council One chairpersons.”  

Motive of attacks
The minister also revealed that the security in Greater Masaka is under threat prompted by evil-hearted individuals, “who are sponsored by the enemies of peace, law and order”.

“In Uganda of today, you cannot gain power by stabbing to death innocent civilians. One has to follow all the democratic steps, including convincing the masses of your good ideas and selling your manifesto,” Ms Babalanda said. She warned that the attackers may also be aiming at scaring away tourists and the investors so that Uganda’s economy gets paralysed and the government fails to fulfil its mandate.

Ms Babalanda said the masterminds of the night attacks on peoples’ homes in Masaka are  aiming at disorganising the ruling NRM  from focusing on developing the nation, and causing panic in the public to create a sense of helplessness which may force the masses to gang up against the government.

While commissioning 97 cadet assistant superintendents of Prisons and passing out another 267 non-commissioned officers at Kololo Independence Grounds on August 31, President Museveni blamed the spate of killings by machete-wielding thugs in Masaka area on politicians, who he said were misleading young people into crime and vowed that security agencies would arrest those involved.

Without naming anyone allegedly sponsoring the youth to kill people, the President warned of repercussions.

Intelligence gaps

Ms Babalanda, however, advised the security leaders to take note of the shortcomings in intelligence gaps at the grassroots, which may give the thugs an upper hand.

“The  ‘I don’t care’ attitude of leaders, lazy security personnel who choose to sleep on the job, local councils that are not vigilant or mobilised enough to address the security issues, and bad politics influenced and financed by external forces, you need to be aware of these issues as we fight against this evil in the society,” she added.

She also cited poor working relationship among members of the district security committees, saying this has also created some gaps. She cited the a case of Katakwi District, where she said the district police commander, and the resident district commissioner have a poor working relation.

“I am going to hold a countrywide Zoom meeting with all members of district security committees on September 15 to try to address such concerns.

“The public should be made to reject this evil campaign and stop it from spreading to other regions and this can be attained by scaling up of countrywide mobilisation and sensitisation of masses by leaders,” Ms Babalanda said. 

Buganda MPs in Masaka
As Ms Babalanda was meeting security chiefs in the area, Buganda Caucus MPs led by Mr Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi were also crisscrossing the Greater Masaka sub-region, meeting families of the victims of the killings and survivors.

The MPs and local leaders in Masaka City were asked government to consider removing curfew restrictions to enable local vigilantes fight back in case of an attack. 
On the same day, religious leaders in Masaka region also conducted joint prayers to pray for the ending of the killings in the area.

Pastor Leonard Sserwadda, the head of Pentecostal Churches in South Buganda, said as the security does its part to stop the killings, spiritual leaders should seek divine intervention  to save lives of innocent residents.

The attacks 

Police in Masaka Sub-region have confirmed 29 deaths in the past one month, although three of the killings are related to domestic violence and robbery. 

The attackers, who mostly target elderly persons, hit them with blunt objects on the head, and strike between 8pm and 6am, taking advantage of the curfew.

Available records show that of the 29 residents killed, 18 were from Lwengo and others from Masaka City, and the districts of Bukomansimbi, Lyantonde, Sembabule, Rakai and Kyotera.

About 70 suspects have since been arrested, with 10 charged on Wednesday with murder and attempted murder before being remanded to Masaka Ssaza Prison. 

As of Monday, no murder has been reported, unlike the past weeks where a death or two would be reported every morning. 
However, on Wednesday, 61-year-old Maria Nakyanzi, a resident of Kyango-Kazo cell in Kasaali Town Council, Kyotera District, survived death by a whisker when an unknown assailant attacked her and cut her hands as she was entering her house at about 7pm.

Background...Some of the new guidelines
●   All leaders, security organs and private stakeholders to declare this security threat a public emergency and prioritise its address. 
●   Countrywide community policing to provide public with tips in crime intelligence. 
●   Countrywide mobilisation and sensitisation of the masses by leaders. 
●   Local Councils to engage youth in their villages in intelligence gathering.
●   Security to be accessible on telephone 24/7 and offer swift responses.
●   There should be 24/7 wide scale security surveillance by the police. 
●   MPs and local leaders to own campaign against the enemy by being accessible and available to guide the public. They should facilitate easy coordination and guidance with security personnel. 
●   Parents to monitor the movements of their children, especially the youth. 
●   Radio and social media users to join the campaign against the enemy through mobilisations, sensitisations and whistleblowing. 

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