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150 Moroto prison escapees were in jail for murder, firearm related crimes

Deputy Attorney General Jackson Kafuuzi on behalf the Ministry of Internal Affairs presented the statement on the pre­lim­i­nary re­port of es­cape of pris­on­ers from Mo­roto prison. File Photo

Moroto, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | At least 152 of 224 inmates who escaped from Moroto prison last week were in jail for either murder or unlawful possession of firearms, a report from the Ministry of Internal Affairs indicates.

The prisoners escaped through the main gate of Moroto prison on September 16, taking advantage of security lapse created by the kitchen team which was loading food outside the prison. The group of inmates grabbed the gatekeeper before he could lock the inner gate and broke the locking system of the main gate. They also raided the armory and went away with 14 guns, 15 magazines and 480 rounds of ammunition.

Moroto prison escapees fled towards Mt.Moroto

At the time of the incident, the prison had 687 inmates. Following reinforcement by police and the army, a total of 16 prisoners have so far been recaptured and 7 others killed in operations while the other 201 prisoners are still at large armed with guns.

It has now emerged that 93 of the prisoners were in jail for possession of firearms, 59 were in for murder and four had been convicted on both charges. Another 12 had been jailed for aggravated defilement while 18 were in for rape and five were in for robbery.

Other charges on the list of escapees include failure to protect war materials, failure to execute one’s duty, threatening violence, theft, assault, manslaughter, causing grievous harm, desertion, escape and theft among others. This is according to a report by the Minister for Internal Affairs Mario Obiga Kania, presented before Parliament this afternoon by the Deputy Attorney General Jackson Kafuuzi.

The report shows that the cause of the breakout was a mixture of many things including the outbreak of cholera, the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the prisons, the structure of the prison among other things. The minister said that several staff and prisoners tested positive for COVID-19 at a time when they were battling an outbreak of cholera.

“Prisoners and staff were hit by cholera as they were recovering, COVID-19 set in, 138 prisoners and seven (07) staff tested positive. This affected staff morale and panic as the staff continued to wait for their COVID-19 test results,” he said. He added that the long pre-trial process in which some suspects stayed on trial for five years without justice could also have contributed to the escape.

The report shows that the carrying capacity of the prison is 197 prisoners compared to 687 prisoners who were in the prison at the time of escape. The population at the time was 3.5 times higher than the official capacity. This breakdown of the composition of the escapees shades more light to how dangerous the group might be for the country’s security.

The government has now decided to remodel the infrastructure at the prisons including building a double wall fence with Towers, setting up CCTV cameras, razor wire and installation of hydrants for all high-security prisons which will be complete in the next three months. The level of deployment at the facility has also been increased.

There are also plans to strengthen the prisons intelligence system through restructuring, deployments, training, and funding. The security has also been heightened in the course of addressing Covid-19 and staff shall be compelled to remain security alert at all times.

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