Security beefed up ahead of Martyrs’ Day celebrations

Military police patrol outside the Namugongo Catholic Shrine on Tuesday. PHOTO | ISAAC KASAMANI

As a way of averting safety threats during the Martyrs Day celebrations, security has been heightened both at the Catholic and the Anglican shrines. 

The celebrations, which will be held on June 3, are expected to attract thousands of pilgrims. 

At respective entrance gates yesterday, the faithful were thoroughly checked and reminded to wear masks. 

Inside the shrines, police and army officers kept patrolling different points to sniff out any threats. 

Mr Abbas Ssenyonjo, the district police commander (DPC) for Kira Division, told Daily Monitor in an interview  yesterday that security would safeguard the lives of not only pilgrims, but also other members of the public. 

“As I talk now, we have beefed up security from all security agencies, including police and the army that are doing joint operations,” Mr Ssenyonjo said. 

“So far, so good. We have not registered any threats besides the death of one pilgrim who was heading to Namugongo [on Monday]. There have not been any other deaths registered since then,” he added. 

Jackline Alinaitwe, 49, a resident of Katerera in Rubirizi District, who was walking to Namugongo for the second time, died her way on Monday morning.

A number of businesses are booming as they sell foodstuff  and other items to the pilgrims. 

 “We don’t want to give criminals any chance to perform any crime. We are everywhere to avert any risks,” Mr Ssenyonjo said. 

Some of the pilgrims told this publication that the heavy security deployment has minimised theft. 

“Our luggage has always been safe because of the many policemen and women protecting us. Even the criminals amid us are fearing to do wrong out of fear of being caught,” Ms Berna Naigaga from Masaka District said. 

The pilgrims, who talked to Daily Monitor yesterday also applauded the health team on ground. 

Mr Joel Kitutu, the technical lead of emergency, preparedness and response at Uganda Red Cross Society, said they are attending to those who have sustained injuries. 

They are also handling other concerns such as headache and fever.  

“We have not registered any case of Covid-19 and will keep monitoring the health of other in-coming pilgrims,” Mr Kitutu said. 

With security and health taken care of, the pilgrims have shifted their concern to the weather, which they described as unpredictable.

“There was a night it recently rained and we all woke up scrambling for the space at prayer pavilions. Most of us ended up getting soaked,” Mr Peter Wakabi, a pilgrim, said, adding: “Rain is a blessing, yes, but it is currently inconveniencing us.” 

Most of the pilgrims at the Catholic Shrine are taking cover in the availed open space. 

Rev Fr Vincent Lubega, the Namugongo Catholic Parish priest, said the sponsors of the celebrations have only been able to avail a few tents.

At the Anglican Shrine, the pilgrims are being accommodated in dormitories.