Kayima also spoke of plans by police, through Local Councils, to register all the people in their communities. He said this initiative has been dubbed ‘My neighbor’s concerns are my concerns’.
It is continuation of the force’s community policing strategy launched early in the year to encourage residents to be on the watch in their neighbourhood and report suspicious activity. Kayima said the police will follow up with setting up posts at parish levels to ensure that there’s constant contact and mediation between the force and the community.
The police’s business as usual approach appears to have missed an important pointer. Nakisinde’s killing has become a turning point of sorts. Following the discovery of her body, parliament demanded an official explanation from the executive and called off all business when the line minister failed to show up.
And when the Minister for Internal Affairs, Gen. Jeje Odongo, finally delivered an official statement to parliament on Sept.07, he offered a lot on details of the murders, speculated on motive, but fumbled on action the government was taking to ensure not more killings happened.
He said 18 of the killings were linked to witchcraft while the other three women were killed as a result of domestic violence. He said 44 suspects had been taken into custody for questioning. But legislators were not impressed when he said the murders were the work of the ‘illuminati’, a broad description coined by tabloids to describe young people with clear sources of wealth who like to splash new money. Minister Odongo want the MPs to believe what the tabloids said about the shadowy illuminati; that they “went under water” to get their money, and were murdering the women to suck their blood in rituals.
“In the case of Nansana municipality murders, eight of the 9 women were murdered by one criminal gang for ritual scarified purposes,” Odongo said, “The prime suspect Ibrahim Kawesa confessed that he had been contracted by Phillips Tumuhimbise to kill 12 women to draw blood for ritual performance to enhance wealth.”
MPs were not impressed. Many had read a report attributed to Police Director of Medical Services, Dr. Moses Byaruhanga in the Daily Monitor newspaper that police surgeons had found no evidence that organs were removed from any of the women as is common with ritual killings. Even the neck, where the minister claimed the illuminati were sucking blood did not bear any cuts. The official statements also were not sync with an earlier statement by Police Spokesman Asan Kasingye. He had dismissed any link between the murders and said police had no evidence pointing to a serial killer, as was widely believed.
But to back Odongo, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda told MPs that “backward tendencies” like ritual killings remain a reality in the country. Still, the air of distrust hung heavy.
The MPs said that torture, rape and brutality that are characteristic of the current women murders were not typical of ritual murders.
“In ritual murders, perpetuators do not rape women,” one MP Margaret Komuhangi, told the government ministers bluntly. She said the killings seen were typical of war crimes where women are brutalised, raped, and forced into prostitution. Kyomuhangi who headed a government probe into human sacrifice advise the authorities not to close off other routes of investigation.
“This is an attack on our dignity that we deserve as human beings; this is taking us many steps backwards,” said Anna Adeke, a Youth MP, “The manner in which these women are killed is abusing our femininity.”
Opposition leader in parliament, Winifred Kiiza said for killers to be lurking with impunity in Entebbe, the seat of the Presidency is a major “attempt to test the county’s powerbase’. She dismissed the Minister’s statement as lacking information on how government intended to solve the problem.
“We feel that our lives are in danger; and it’s a shame that the Minister is talking about witchcraft as the country prepares to move into middle income status,” she said.
Several MPs charged that failure to stop the killing of women should be seen as more failure by the security agencies that have failed to arrest the killers of Muslim sheiks, top policemen and army officers, and high ranking judicial officers.
A twist in the reports is the manner in which the women mostly first go missing before their already decomposing body pops-up in bushes, by the road side, or other places.
In several interviews with residents of Nansana, it was clear many of them do not trust the police. Many women refused to give their names because, they said, they could be singled for retribution. Many said they think that all that their local police officials care about is money and not their security.
“These police men have sometimes released criminals who have offered them bribes and kept in custody innocent people who refuse to give them money. They are just money makers and not security operatives,” said one elderly lady who appeared rather shy.
At the Nakuule Police Post in the area, the two roomed facility had one officer seated on a small desk. He was speaking to a woman who seemed to have come to get someone released from custody. It was her son. Another two police officers were playing Omweeso, a local board game outside the station.
Adjacent the police station is the open field where the residents most of whom had packed their boda bodas, were listening to the address of Deputy Mayor Isaac Keith Ssali of Nansana Municipality where many of the corpses have been found.
When asked whether they were aware the IGP was touring their area on security issues, they answered in the affirmative.
“We expect him to come this side also,” one said.