Who should pay for Ugandans shot dead at random?

Security personnel cordon off Cheap Hardware in Nansana, Wakiso District, after armed robbers shot and killed two people during a day-light robbery at the store on May 29. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA.

On May 29, Francis Ananiya, a 28-year-old taxi driver, was in the right place at the wrong time. He had taken a break to have lunch on Kabumbi Road in Nansana, Wakiso District, when gunmen fleeing from a robbery caught up with him.

The thugs had just staged a frightening raid on Cheap Hardware Shop in Nansana town, shooting at attendants and making off with an unspecified sum of money. Jimmy Atikuru, the assistant manager of the shop, and Frank Mutsindwa, an attendant, died on the spot from gunshot wounds. Amin Bugembe, one of the two others who were rushed to hospital, died at Mulago hospital. Our search for details about the fourth victim of the shooting in the shop was inconclusive by press time.

As the robbers fled the scene of their gruesome crime, they shot at random to scare off pursuers, and in the process, Ananiya was shot eight times. He was rushed to Nakasero Hospital in Kampala and had emergency surgery carried out on him, removing six bullets from his body and leaving two lodged in the rib cage. His mother, Christine Kagonya, a peasant farmer in Iganga District, who appears to be in her 60s, was nearly a permanent sight at Nakasero Hospital as her son fought for his life in the intensive care unit.

In the end, the hospital bill reached Shs58m and Nakasero Hospital lost patience, stopping the treatment to Ananiya, whose family had by that time written to the Inspector General of Police, Mr Martins Okoth-Ochola, and whoever they thought could help, to finance their relative’s treatment. The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) finally came in to settle the hospital bill, but that was days after Ananiya had been moved to Mulago hospital after going for days without treatment at Nakasero Hospital.

On June 25, Ananiya lost the fight at Mulago hospital, leaving behind three children and a pregnant woman.
Godfrey Waiswa, Ananiya’s elder brother, says a UPDF soldier showed up at the specialised unit in Mulago hospital and paid the Shs1.6m bill to facilitate the release of the body.

Ms Sylvia Namutebi, commonly known as Mama Fina, gave the family Shs5m to help in transporting the body to Idudi in Iganga District and cater for burial expenses. She had, while in Nakasero Hospital, given them another Shs5m which they initially paid to the hospital before the army came in.

Waiswa says they have since taken up care of Ananiya’s children among themselves and have moved on.
Bashir Musa, 19, was on the morning of July 9, returning to his home in Makindye, Kampala, when he was shot. He was rushed to Mulago hospital where he died, shortly after.

Residents who knew Musa, a deejay at a local bar in Makindye, staged a protest over his shooting, accusing Local Defence Unit (LDUs) personnel of carrying out the gruesome act. The army, which supervises the LDUs who started operations months ago, denies that Musa was shot by LDU personnels.

“That is fake; it’s a lie. That is a lie and it isn’t good to misinform the public for the sake of filing a story or filling a newspaper page. CCTV camera footages are available on the alleged killing of that one Bashir and has nothing to do with LDUs,” Lt Col Henry Obbo, the UPDF Land Forces spokesperson, told Saturday Monitor.
Col Obbo, however, declined to release to this newspaper the CCTV camera footage that he says absolves the LDUs in this case.

The LDUs have been accused of torture, harassment and extortion by residents of Makindye and other areas.
Col Obbo referred us to the police on the status of investigations into the matter.

“We are yet to conclusively come up with a clear report of what happened because right now, we cannot say that it was the LDU who shot. We have started a swift investigation into this case because according to the information we have, there was no LDU personnel that was patrolling that area so we are looking for the LC1 defence secretary of the area, who is currently on the run. He has switched off his phone,” Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango said.

Mr Onyango added that police investigations indicate that Musa and other youth were gambling and that the deceased had in the process won Shs300,000 when he decided to call it a night. The police spokesperson said that at that time, Musa’s colleagues insisted that the gambling had to continue, which he objected to, leading to a fight.

Mr Onyango, however, does not say who shot Musa and whether the alleged gamblers were armed. In response to this question, he said the police would seek answers from the village defence secretary, who was allegedly part of the gamblers.

Lawyers weigh in
Ananiya and Musa, are just two of tens of Ugandans who have been gunned down since this year began.
Our count shows that at least 25 Ugandans have been killed in gun violence during the past six months. The number should be higher since many of the cases are not properly documented.

Many of those who have been shot dead during the period under review were at their workplaces, whether mobile money outlets or shops, while others were going about their businesses.

Many of those killed under such circumstances leave behind helpless children and other dependents. In these circumstances, how far does the government’s duty of care for citizens go in cases like this?

“Many people are not aware of their rights; many of them think it is (being shot) an act of God and simply believe that is what God has decided for them and they think the State cannot be taken to court,” Mr Ladislaus Rwakafuzi, a human rights lawyer, says.

“Personally, I wish some citizens went to court over these shootings because (the) government has a monopoly over the guns. They are the ones who issue licences for those who have them lawfully and so if these guns escape into wrongful hands, the State should be able to explain. In my opinion, we need to find a judge who will put (the) government to task to explain how these guns ended up in the hands of wrong people,” Mr Rwakafuzi adds.

The biggest dilemma, Mr Rwakafuzi, who has previously represented such victims, says, is that many of these shootings are carried out by suspected State agents who may not be identified because they are not in uniform, making it hard to pin the government in such shootings. It is usually in such cases where the person is putting on uniform, whether police or the military uniform that people have gone to court.

“There is a case to be made about the failure of the State to protect the lives of those killed. In order to have a good chance, though, one must show a pattern and a failure on the part of the State either by way of lack of supervision or the number of such unresolved killing. It (suing the State successfully) is a possibility,” Mr Nicholas Opiyo, a human rights lawyer and founder of Chapter Four Uganda, a human rights organization, says.

He adds: “There is a certain despair now with those of us who have litigated for a long time. We create a buzz but in real life, the victims do not get much in terms of justice. Also, those who take on these sorts of cases end up with all sorts of troubles in their lives. They pay a huge price.”

Ms Sandra Oryema, the legal aid manager at the Public Interest Law Clinic (PILAC) based at the Makerere University Law School, says public interest litigation would provide some answers to the victims and the country generally.

“When I look at enforcement of human rights, the question is whether you look at public interest. That is why we are saying, who are the people affected, how many are affected by this gun violence? Can we successfully take a case and say that the government has not put in place regulations to protect Ugandans? What I think would work is a public interest litigation case,” Ms Oryema says.

She explained that to sue the government, there is need to establish whether it has breached a constitutional and statutory duty for it to be held liable. She says this will entail looking at the incidents that have happened, how many people have been affected and then prove if there is a law that gives government that duty, which government has refused or failed to carry out.

“You also look at human rights and if the State fails to protect your rights, you can sue for the enforcement of that right,” she said.

The UPDF, for example, tries civilians in army courts subject to Military Law by virtue of some sections. “Offences Relating to Security, contrary to Section 130(1) (f) of the UPDF Act No.7 of 2005, Unlawful Acquisition of Firearms, contrary to Section 3(1) and (2)(a) of the Fire Arms Act Cap 299, Unlawful Acquisition of Ammunition Contrary to Section 3(1), (3) & (4) of the Firearms Act Cap 299 and Offences Relating to Guard Duties contrary to Section 131 (1) of the UPDF Act No.7 of 2005” as preferred by the court.

Some lawyers say the government cannot say they control the guns yet when the guns escape into the wrong hands, they escape responsibility.

They argue that it is a duty of government to always know who has its weapons.
“I think if people are sensitised enough, they would take on government because government is in charge of all these things, they should not eat their cake and have it. Our people do not seem to know their rights,” Mr Rwakafuzi adds.

Some of the incidents since January

January 1: Brian Byaruhanga, a guard with Security Group Africa, shoots dead Dissan Ahereza, 18, after the teenager reportedly resisted arrest.
January 1: Jimmy Juk, attached to New Uganda Securiko, shoots and kills an unidentified man, reportedly an intruder at the home of Otuke Member of Parliament, Mr Julius Acon.
January 7: Isaac Okwir, a security guard with to Redteck Security Company, shoots and kills Abubakar Kinene, a mechanic and resident of Kyengera.
January 8: Pius Tumuhimbise, a UPDF soldier, shoots and injures three people.
January 23: Caleb Muhwezi, a security guard with Swatt Security Company, shoots three people, killing one and injuring two others.
February 29: Amos Muhebwa, a security guard shoots and injures singer Gereson Wabuyi, alias Gravity Omutujju, at LK Petrol Station in Bukuya Sub-county, Kassanda District.
March 2: Herbert Ayesigye, a 28-year-old trader, is killed and four others badly injured after being attacked by suspected armed robbers in Elegu Town, Amuru District.
March 17: Sgt Philemon Asasira, a Uganda Wildlife Authority game ranger, is shot dead during an operation to crack down against illegal ivory trade.
March 24: Ronald Ssebulime is shot and killed by police officers.
March 25: Richard Wani is gunned down by hooded gunmen at Pita Pump fuel station in Kamuli District.
March 25: Andrew Niwagaba, a UPDF officer with the 35th Battalion Nyakabande in Nyakabande Sub-county in Kisoro District, shoots and injures Annet Uwimana, a suspected sex worker at a pub in Kisoro Municipality.
April 15: Lambert Sabaho, a 52-year-old Rwandan national and resident of Bigina Village, Hospital Ward in Kisoro Town in Kisoro District, is shot dead near the gate of his rented house. May 10: Moses Bitungwa, a suspected poacher, is shot and killed by rangers in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
May 16: Fred Chemonges, a police officer, is shot dead while three others escape with serious injuries in a shootout between police and suspected armed robbers at Nabumali Trading Centre, Mbale District.
June 22: Two suspected robbers are shot dead at Total fuel station in Nsambya by security officers in civilian attire as their vehicle is fuelled by the pump attendants.
June 10: Mobile money dealer Harriet Naluwadde, 33, and her worker Moreen Nakabuubi, 25, both residents of Zana cell, are shot dead by thugs riding on three unidentified motor cycles at about 10.45pm.
July 9: Bashir Musa, a local DJ in one of the local bars in Makindye, Kampala, is shot dead by suspected LDU personnel as he returned home from work at around 4am.
May 16: Armed thugs raid a mobile money shop in Church Zone, Lungujja, Kampala, and shoot dead Raphael Walugembe. Walugembe, 23, had just completed his undergraduate studies at Uganda Martyrs University.
June 28: Juliet Nabaasa is shot and killed, while her colleague, Mr Twaha Lukwago, is injured by unknown armed assailants. The robbery happens at Balintuma Road, Kayiwa Zone in Rubaga Division at about 10pm. Nabaasa was travelling from her mobile money shop in Nakulabye to her home. Armed thugs riding motorcycles shoot her dead and her driver is shot in the leg. The suspects flee the scene without taking the money. Police recover more than Shs6 million at the scene.
July 9: A security guard shoots dead businessman Arnold Ainebyona Mugisha at Quality Shopping village, Naalya, Kira Municipality in Wakiso District.
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