Why some areas are prone to gun violence

Scene-of-crime officers examine the scene where gunmen attacked former Works and Transport minister, Gen Katumba Wamala, killing his daughter and driver on Kisota-Kulambiro road on June 1, 2021. PHOTO/ABUBAKER LUBOWA. 

What you need to know:

  • The Kampala Metropolitan North neighbourhood where Kisaasi, Kulambiro and Kyanja are found, has witnessed a number of killings of high-profile people, including AIGP Felix Kaweesi.

In a space of one week, two people, one a retired colonel and a minister, and the other an ascerbic social media vlogger, were gunned down in Kyanja, a sprawling Kampala city suburb teaming with people of all walks of life. 

The Kampala Metropolitan North neighbourhood where Kisaasi, Kulambiro and Kyanja are found, has witnessed a number of killings of high-profile people, including Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) Felix Kaweesi, a former police spokesperson, who was gunned down 100 metres away from his Kulambiro residence in 2017.

Col (rtd) Charles Engola was shot dead by his own bodyguard in Kyanja on May 2. Isma Olaxess aka Jajja Iculi, was killed days later on May 6. 

Ironically, his shooting death came days after he celebrated Engola’s death in a web post. 
Gunmen attacked and wounded Uganda’s Works minister and former army chief, Gen Katumba Wamala, killing his daughter and driver on June1, 2021 on Kisota-Kulambiro road.

These victims joined Ms Joan Kagezi, a high profile attorney working in the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, who was killed on March 30, 2015, in the neighbouring suburb of Kiwatule.

In the 2022 police annual crime report, Kampala Metropolitan North registered the highest number of murders by shooting within the city, registering 19 cases, followed by KMP East with 10 cases, while KMP South registered 8 cases. The police say two people were involved in Olaxess’ killing. 

The assailants, armed with a pistol, reportedly waylaid their victim in an isolated area of a fenced-off neighbourhood as his chauffeur Mathias Wasswa took him home.

Police has since arrested the driver and two others in connection with the killing. 

“Outside the driver, we also have two other suspects who have been arrested. We have three people whom we are interviewing for now. The driver is still in our custody helping out with certain lines of inquiry,” police spokesperson Fred Enanga told journalists on May 8.

What makes these areas ideal for gun shooting?
Kisaasi, Kumambiro and Kyanja are neighbourhoods where residential housing has been built in a haphazard manner like in most of the capital city’s suburbs. Its road network is very poor, and with very little or no street lighting, making them dangerous spots at night.

The dense population residing here is comprised of people from all walks of life; the rich living in gated neighbourhoods, some guarded by armed men, and the working class who generally rent accommodation. The less privileged live in squalid shacks in the slums which tend to make for good hideouts for criminals.

Two years ago, the city authority in 2021 received a loan of Shs32 billion for its 20,000 solar street lights project. The authority at the time said this would help light up some of the dark spots around the city, thereby making them relatively more secure.

But Ms Dorothy Kisaka, the city’s executive director, has recently been quoted saying whereas a number of Kampala’s streets have been fitted with street lights, only eight percent of the lights were functioning.

“This new street lighting project includes the intention to revamp the city’s street lighting. Only 115kms of the city’s 1,200 kilometres of roads have been fitted with lights,” she said.
During the same year, it was discovered that at least 1,800 solar powered street lights which had been installed by KCCA in 2019 were also not working. 

Some of the killings have been blamed on elements linked to the Islamic extremist Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group. Others were either targeted attacks or simply the consequence of violent crime.

Mr Mathias Mpuuga, the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LoP), has observed that the manner in which Col Engola and Jajja Iculi lost their lives speaks to a deeper problem facing the country. 

He recalled that after the spate of unexplained killings in which several Muslim clerics were gunned down in and around Kampala, among other citizens who also lost their lives to gun crime over the last six or so years, President Museveni said the solution to this insecurity lay in installing security cameras in townships and along highways. 

Subsequently, government agencies asked for more than Shs376 billion for the installation of the cameras – a project whose implementation has been questioned, especially in relation to quality of equipment and functionality. 

Mr Mpuuga, however, said this did not stop the killings and they have also not been as helpful in crime detection. 

“The police have asked for another Shs187 billion to buy more cameras whose purpose is evidently to go after Opposition politicians and supporters. The ADF storyline that was used in the previous killings can no longer hold because Museveni and his spinners told us that they (ADF) were no more,” Mpuuga said. 

Both Kaweesi and Kagezi’s killers appear to have attacked their victims after carefully planning, trailing their targets on motorcycles before hitting them.  

AIGP Kaweesi was assassinated on the morning of March 17, 2017, just as he was leaving home for duty. Together with his bodyguard, Kenneth Erau and driver, Geoffrey Wambewo, the police boss was shot about 100 metres from the gate of his house. 

The police report indicated that Kaweesi was shot 27 times; Erau took 33 bullets, while the driver was shot 11 times. The vehicle in which the three were travelling was found to have 77 bullet holes. 

Eye witnesses said hooded men riding on two motorcycles came from behind, overtook the car, then turned back, and started raining bullets on the vehicle.

Kagezi’s killers also rode on motorcycles. They tracked her car during the evening rush hour, waiting for traffic to get clogged in the infamous Kampala gridlock before closing in for the kill.
In Gen Katumba’s case, the assassins trailed him for over four kilometres from his home in Najjera to Kisota-Kulambiro road where he had stopped in traffic and then unleashed a hail of bullets on his army car, killing his daughter Brenda Nantongo and driver Haruna Kayondo.

Police has observed that the areas where Col Engola, Kaweesi, Olaxess and Gen Katumba were hit are not covered by enough CCTV cameras.

Other killings which caused shockwaves were the shooting death of Maj Mohammed Kiggundu, a former ADF commander, who had switched sides after being captured. He was gunned down in November 2016 at Masanafu. 

Former Buyende District Police Commander, ASP Muhammad Kirumira, was killed together with a female friend Resty Nalinya Mbabazi, on September 8, 2018 at about 8pm in Bulenga, Wakiso.
Former Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga was shot dead as he approached his home in Kawanda, Wakiso District in June 2018. To-date, no suspect has been charged in court.

Over the years, at least 10 Muslim clerics have been gunned down. These include; Sheikh Abdul Karim Sentamu, gunned down on William Street, moments after he left a mosque; Abubaker Kiweewa was shot dead at 9pm on June 22, 2012, within the premises of his Prime Supermarket in Kyanja; Sheikh Mustafa Bahiga, who was killed at Bwebajja Mosque on Entebbe Road on December 28, 2014, and Sheikh Ibrahim Hassan Kirya, who was shot dead in Bweyogerere by gunmen riding a motorcycle on June 30, 2015.

Museveni’s plan 
In 2018, after the murder of Abiriga, President Museveni outlined a nine-point security strategy to combat violent crime.

He promised that the government would install CCTV cameras in urban centres and along the highways. This was swiftly followed by Shs369 billion supplementary request to Parliament, which was promptly approved. 

But to-date, these cameras have hardly helped police in tracing suspects.
Other measures the President cited included deployment of Local Defence Unit forces patrols; installation of electronic number plates to enable vehicle tracking; banning the wearing of hooded jackets by boda boda cyclists; prioritising human intelligence; gun finger-printing; enhancing use of police communications systems; regulation of social media and ridding police of corruption. 

What police say

Police spokesperson Fred  Enanga had told Saturday Monitor that these were all victims of deliberate plots.

“These are targeted and opportunistic attacks, they are carefully planned. They look for the best opportunity after trailing somebody and in some instances it is quite difficult to prevent or counter such an attack,” he said.

He acknowledged that there is a need to have more cameras installed to cover known blackspots. Most security cameras have a range radius of about 2km.

“So, we need to increase deployment of CCTV cameras and encourage the public to have private cameras within their homes, it is a target-hardening initiative that helps a great deal,” he said.
Mr Enanga also said some killings have taken place at night in remote areas.

“The murder of Jajja Iculi was after 9pm, there were no street lights and it was done under the cover of darkness. This is also another factor that promotes crime because criminals take advantage of the darkness to commit these crimes and even get away,” he said.

“We caution the public about these follow-home attacks, and even attacks at gates. If you’re going home, alert the people at home to try to evaluate the security around the gate before you arrive so that when you reach there is no stopping. Criminals use these gate attacks and in these attacks they have been successful, same with kidnaps. We are trying but there is a need for the community to be extra alert and vigilant,” he added.