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Who is behind Uganda’s new terror gangs?

IGP Gen. Kale Kayihura

Police insiders going rogue?

They call themselves the Bakijambiya (Machete gang) and they pounce in the wee hours of the night. They come with pangas, iron bars, nails on wood clubs, and big knives. They chop and clobber their victims, steal their money and portable property, and rape the women and girls.

Their area of operation is mainly in what is called the Greater Masaka region which covers the districts of Lwengo, Masaka, Rakai and Bukomansimbi. The man who job is to stop them is the Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura. But since the gangs started their marauding attacking early this year, Kayihura has failed to stop them. And criticism keeps piling up, including calls for President Yoweri Museveni to sack him of for Kayihura to resign.

Four time presidential race contender, Kiiza Besigye, on April 24, called for his resignation.

“Mr Kayihura should be thrown out of office,” Besigye said, “Of course, if it was a more decent political system in which people have authority he would have resigned himself. He cannot manage dealing with this, he is partly the problem and I think it will do this country good for him to get out.”

Meanwhile, the numbers of victims keep piling up. Desperate citizens have abandoned their homes as the gangs get bolder, issue warnings ahead of an attack, and police is still unable to stop them.

In one incident in Lwengo district, the gang dropped leaflets warning they would attack on March 30 and 31 and the police deployed heavily to thwart them. Even desperate villagers vowed to defend themselves and sharpened pangas. But it was all futile. The gang pounced. They tortured, looted, and raped. By the time the mayhem ended, the numbers of victims since the attacks started had swollen to 20 killed and over 80 injured. Victims fill hospitals beds in the area to date and police has responded by mass arrests of over 200 people.

But question abound in most minds: What is this crime wave about? Are they criminals or agents of political mayhem? Is it one gang or many?

Kayihura is desperate to find answers. Publicly, he has already labeled the crime wave to be “the work of some political actors who want to use general crime to create fear in the country”. But behind the scenes, he is asking questions and recently, the Naguru police headquarters has been a bee-hive of activity as marathon “operations meetings” are held with commanders from all over the country and myriad plans on how to deal with the crisis, are plotted.

Kayihura is also constantly on the phone, issuing orders and getting updates from top commanders.

A firm believer in show of force tactics, Kayihura has taken to moving around areas where suspected criminals or those with links or information could hang out; boda boda taxi stages around Kampala, police stations in crime havens, and press engagements.

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