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Kampala’s killing zones

By Tracy Gwambe

Murders on the rise as gangs terrorise Kampala, Kiira, Mukono

Annet Kayondo died in the most brutal way a young woman could die. It is believed she was on her way to work at 6am on April 3 when her attacker or attackers pounced on her in Kigandazi Zone in Bweyogerere, a busy suburb of Kampala city.

Kayondo was attacked along the narrow mud road as she scurried in the semi-darkness of dawn. A lot is still shrouded in mystery. But it is believed she was raped, beaten, and left for dead.

A trail of dark red coagulating blood from the road to the compound marked the ground where she was dragged from the road, along the ground, to a nearby compound where she was discovered – unconscious but still breathing.

Her bloodied mess was rushed to the main health facility in the area, Gwatiro Hospital where Kayondo fought for her life. But she had no hope.

“She was brought in as she breathed her last,” recalls Gwatiro Katumba, the owner of the hospital, “after five to ten minutes, she died.”

Gwatiro describes Kayondo’s injuries matter of fact, in medical terms: “She was beaten on the frontal bone on the cranial bone. Possibly they hit her with an iron bar. The cranial bone was broken and she experienced cranial bleeding which takes place in the brain. When someone bleeds in the brain, there is always nothing much that can be done.”

Still, she was rushed into the operating theatre and attempts were made to give her supplemental oxygen from a tank. Everything failed.

“We handled the case for about five of her last minutes,” Katumba concludes. He says a postmortem was done in Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala and he cannot say whether Kayondo was raped or not.

He sounds almost cold in his narration. To him Kayondo is just another “case”.

“We receive many cases of people being beaten into such a state,” he says equally laconically.

In the latest such case, on May 2, Yunus Ssemambio, 30, a recent graduate from Kyambogo University and youth leader of wellspring zone in Bweyogerere was murdered in his house. The killers entered his house and hit him on the head with a stone. Residents blamed the killing on marijuana addicts.

The day before, on May 1, the body of man was found at Kyambogo along the Kampala-Bweyogerere stretch of the highway. Area police, however, suspect that the dead man, who wore a blue overall and was wrapped in a bedsheet, was killed in another place and dumped at Kyambogo. One resident told journalists that it was the sixth body to be found in the same area this year.

On February 27, an unidentified person was found murdered in Kiira. The police believe he was murdered by a mob.

On 29 February, a 19-year old girl, Aneko Nancy was found dead in her boss’ vehicle at Nalya in Kiira division. She is believed to have been murdered.

On 8 March, a man suspected to have been murdered was found dead in his house, in Bweyogerere.

On March 25, a man was killed by unknown people around Prime Radio in Kireka. The body was then transferred to Mulago hospital.

In the same month, Kireka police got information that a man had been murdered and his body hidden in a valley in Kinawataka behind Namboole Stadium. He was hit with a stone, which was also recovered at the scene.

On April 3, a woman was found dead. She is believed to have been raped and after murdered by unknown people.

On April 13, two adults, a male, Kato, and a female who was not identified were burnt to death in a lodge in Bweyogerere.

On April 14, police shot dead a suspected robber as they pursued a fleeing gang in Kamuli A zone in Kireka

On April 8, two people were found murdered in Namugongo, Kiira division. These were a security guard, Muhindo Rogers, a 20-year old of Protection Security Services and a house maid, identified as Ongiru Christine, a 15-year old girl. The murderers stole a few items from the house of whose bosses had gone on Easter holiday. The list goes on.

Desperate victims

Kayondo was a market vendor and lived in the many small mzigo; one-roomed homes, in the Kikajo Zone of Bweyogere which is distinguishable by its crowded small homes, gated big homes, and the tall bushes along the railway line.

It is easy to imagine the fear in this young woman’s heart as she hurried along in the semi-darkness before morning, past the bushes and the many incomplete building that hid nobody knows what. She possibly had heard stories of people like her; women, being murdered in this place, at this time. However, like many, especially women who work in markets, she knew she had to be at work early.

Annet always left for work at around 6am, says her neighbor. She recalls that at around 6:30am, she heard that someone had been killed just a short distance from her home. “Little did I know that it was my neighbor who had been murdered,” she concludes.

Kayondo’s neighbour is still in shock.

We were told that she was beaten at around 6am, she says, the same time she leaves for work. Bweyogerere has become so insecure. We don’t know what to do about this. Many people have been murdered. The people behind these murders are not even known. At 6am, people are expected to be on the move to start work.

“Why is it at this same time that people are murdered?”

Annet’s luck had run out as she neared the area church known as Zion, next to the nursery in Kigandazi Zone. She must have screamed as she was attacked. But no one came to her rescue. There is a house in the compound where she was dragged to, but residents insist they did not hear any cries.

“I knew the girl and I always saw her in the area,” says the owner of the house.

He says he woke up to a big crowd in his compound and a body. Later the police came, recorded statements, checked the house for any evidence, and took away three people to provide further information before returning.

Nobody knows the killers but residents have their suspicions. The Gwatiro owner suspects the many jobless young men he sees loafing around without work. “Someone spends the whole day playing mweso, and pool in a bar and drinking, you wonder where they get the money from,” he says, “If the government is really smart enough, those are the people that they should trap first.” Most of these people are known criminals who have served time in prisons but return when they are even more hardened.

He mentions places like Bondo and the Namulondo Theatre area that have had three homicides this year. Kigandazi, Ntebetebe, Kito near Nambole Stadium, Kinawataka, and the Northern Bypass are the places where insecurity is rampant.

Death at dawn

Other residents suspect the killings happen in the morning hours because the robbers are frustrated. After staying up all night without netting a victim, they can kill someone to get even the little that can take them through the day.

Women are targeted for rape and also because they are weaker and normally cannot defend themselves. However, there are cases where even men are attacked and killed.

Some residents even have names of people they suspect but say they fear to disclose them.

“When they find out that so and so has mentioned them, it is a security threat on my side,” one of them said.

Unlike other areas that are more urbanised, Bweyogere is largely a residential area with scattered homes, incomplete buildings, and bushy undeveloped plots. In more urbanised centers, thieves can easily be identified but Bweyogerere is more village-like; the residents are either friends or relatives, they know each other and do not willingly give police information on criminals.

“They fear to report and always use the expression “mwanawakalo,” to describe criminals who have grown up in the area and are known.

“If people were given a chance to testify, not in the presence of the camera, they would give information on how to get these criminals. Apart from that, no one can testify against the child of the neighbor. Fear is that they will come back and attack the one who reported,” another resident said.

But the Officer in Charge of Bweyogerere, Asst. Superintendent of Police Samson Muyamba, says the crime rates are not alarming.

“There have been only two deaths one being last month in March and this took place in Ntebetebe and the most recent being the one in April, were the New vision vendor She was hit on the head,” he told The Independent.

He said three suspects were arrested and police is investigating. There is, however, fear that the robbery gangs could be coordinating from Kampala, Mukono, and the Bweyogerere areas.

Muyamba says the police have put up security measures and patrols with crime preventers but the robbers appear to track their movement and evade arrest.

“They always know where we are operating from and they turn to the other sides,” Muyamba says; clearly the words of a law enforcer who believes he can win against the marauding killers.

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