Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | On Wednesday, 219 inmates escaped from Sigila prison in Moroto municipality. The escapees also broke into the armory and ran away with 14 guns.
Three of the escapees were killed and seven rearrested. One UPDF soldier was also killed in the fire exchange.
Carlos Odongo, a boda boda cyclist in Moroto who witnessed the incident says the escape of the prisoners was preceded by the unusual appearance of armed warriors behind the prison gates along Circular road. Odongo says he had gone to pick one of his clients in Singila when he saw a group of men carrying guns and arrows.
He explains that a few minutes later, they heard sounds of bullets and saw hundreds of the inmates emerging out of the prison following the same route that was used by the warriors.
Odongo also revealed that the first group of security personnel who included six UPDF soldiers and one policeman tried to confront the escapees in vain. He adds that when more soldiers and policemen arrived at the scene about 30 minutes after the break, many of the escapees had already climbed the Mountain Moroto.
According to Odongo, some of the escapees fled when they were half-naked to avoid being identified as prisoners.
Sophia Naleo, a resident of Singila village in Moroto municipality says that some of the prison warders fled when the inmates broke out of the cells. She adds that some of the inmates grabbed clothes of residents within the barracks and the neighboring community as they fled.
Arap Daniel Toroitich, another resident and elder in Katikekile sub county says the escape of prisoners from Moroto exposes gaps in the management of prisons. He is worried that more guns are in the hands of wrong elements.
According to sources at Moroto prison who preferred anonymity, the inmates were upset after 30 of their colleagues and three staff tested positive to COVID-19.
“Because they were all considered contacts of the positive cases, they started hatching plans to escape. Unfortunately, administrators didn’t heed to several calls and warnings from the inmates when they complained of their health”, the source said.
On Thursday, Frank Baine, the prisons spokesperson said the search for escapees is yielding fewer results after the inmates reportedly mixed up with the community.
Baine also said that joint forces were pursuing the armed group from Kotido who were heading northwards through the jungles of Moroto close to the Kenyan border.