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Killings in the city

By Patrick Kagenda

Policing experts explain what has gone wrong

In the wee hours of October 17, a well-known businessman,Eriabu Sebunya Bugembe aka Kasiwukira, was found dead a few metres from the gate to his mansion in Muyenga, an upscale suburb south east of Kampala city. Kasiwukira, who made his first millions in the music recording business, was an assistant treasurer to Kwagalana, an exclusive club of some of the richest men and women in the city.

Preliminary investigation points at an attack as he was heading out for his routine morning jog. Police forensic investigation, basing on evidence of extensive damage to internal organs, appears to confirm earlier speculation that he was run over by a car. Was it a hit-and-run accident? If so, was it a targeted hit?


Kampala is a quiet city with minimal crime especially in high-end residential areas like Muyenga. Accidents are more common as the roads are narrow forcing joggers to jostle for space with motorists on poorly designed and unlit roads.

Kasiwukira’s slaying, if it is indeed a homicide as police is saying is a major blot on the police in many ways.   Many commentators have noted that it happened, literally, in the police boss, IGP Kale Kayihura’s backyard.   IGP Kayihura lives in Muyenga which is also home to police’s pet project: the `community policing’ model. This approach, which is being promoted by IGP Kayihura, always uses Muyenga as a model. Unfortunately, the model which emphasises collaboration between police and the community to fight crime appears to have failed this time.

Preliminary information suggests that the vehicle suspected to have knocked and killed Kasiwukira was parked in the area for some time. Although, it is said not to have had a number plate, no red flags were raised in this model policing village.

But Kasiwukira’s killing is also significant as it happened just a day after a murder that has shaken the nation.

On October 16, 2014, three men, all of them with links to the Police Flying Squad team assigned to fight serious crime were shot by a city trader; Geoffrey Muhairwe.

Juma Deogratius Jaaya, a police operative from the nearby Kibuye Police Station, and Muhammad Kiwana, a former police operative in the Wembley Squad, the precursor of the Flying Squad were killed on the spot. When their bodies were retrieved from Ndeeba, a downtown suburb of the city, it is alleged that Shs20 million in cash was recovered from the scene of crime.

Another man, Matiya Lukwana Busuulwa, also a former police operative in Wembley, survived with serious injuries and is in hospital. What happened is not clear yet.

Police crime link

According to police, the businessman; Muhairwe, says Kiwana and Busuulwa had offered to sell him boat engines for Shs20 million.

At this point, possibly because he was a serving officer, the police are saying it is not clear how Jaaya got mixed in their transaction. It is also not clear why the money was not exchanged at Muhairwe`s business premises but at a fuel station a short distance away. In a mafia style exchange setting, all four people involved were armed with guns. “There is a puzzle we are trying to put together to establish the authenticity of the matter,” says Fred Enanga, the police spokesman, “The fact that they all were armed shows the level of distrust between them and must have been to something else. “We are trying to establish who armed these people and why the trader shot them from behind, which means they posed no threat to him.”

The Ndeeba shooting and the involvement of its current and former officers, has put the police on the spot. Although the men are all linked to police, residents in the area where they died say they are well-known criminals. Even the would be victim, Muhairwe, is no angel, according to residents. They say he has a criminal record. The police say the license for the gun he was carrying had not been renewed.There is also talk of a second shooter; an accomplice to Muhairwe, who is not being mentioned. According to Enanga, the police are investigating how its officers, current and former, were caught up in the shootout.

But some observers, including Fred Egesa, a former police officer turned-security analyst and private investigator, it is quite clear what is going on.

They partly blame the surge in crime on so-called `informers’ in serious crime fighting outfits. Both Wembley and the Flying Squad, they say, are built on the model of `using a thief to catch a thief’. As a result, known criminals are seen in cohorts with police, at the stations, in police transport, and during operations. In the end, the so-called informers start passing off as police officers. As IGP Kayihura has said on numerous occasions, most of these people have military backgrounds.

“This city is awash with veterans of former rebel groups and now we have Iraq returnees who are jobless,” he said at a police function in September.

Egesa and others are warning of danger.

“The police should stop depending much on informers because they oscillate between the government and criminals. They should be regulated and countered because they can become case blockers at the same time,” says Egesa.

False police deployments

Egesa says Uganda is witnessing a surge in general crime as the country advances economically.

“People`s love for riches is increasing and lifestyles are changing,” he says, “As people want more they design ways of how to acquire what they want and some of these ways may be through crime.”

“The situation has been made worse by the Uganda police lacking what in security terms is called `intelligence dreamers’ to project what crime is bound to emerge, at what time, why and what will be the implications of that crime,” he adds.

While appreciating some of its achievements, Egesa is also critical of today’s police methods.

“Today there is a lot of false deployments and the criminals know that response to an attack is almost zero. That is why we are seeing villages raided by thugs, homes broken into and police only appearing in the morning.”

He could be referring to crimes like what happened on the night of Aug. 27 when robbers broke into several homes of residents of Bwebajja Jjanyi and KKB Zone along Entebbe Road in Wakiso District near Kampala.

Bwebajja Jjanyi LC1, Jimmy Kimala, says the thieves struck at around 1am. They raided house-to-house and took away cash, phones, TV sets, and other portable electrical gadgets.

The attackers left over 21 people injured, some seriously. Bwebajja is under the Kajjansi Police Station, which is about 4kms from the scene of the attack.

The Bwebajja attack hit headlines and sparked a flurry of police activity. However, that did not deter attackers from hitting another village, this time in Mukono District, also near Kampala around the same time and in similar style.

When Nantabulirwa Village in Goma Division in Mukono District was attacked, the robbers also were after laptops, TV sets, Hoofers, phones, flat irons, and other electronics. The Nantabulirwa police post was even nearer; just 1.5kms away and the officers on duty could easily hear the alarm of besieged villagers.

However, as in the Bwebajja robbery, police only appeared in the morning, long after the attackers had vanished.

Declining crime figures

The incidents come at a time when, according to the Uganda Police Annual Crime Report 2013, cases of robberies; both aggravated and simple, had decreased by 15.8% from 4,194 cases in 2012 to 3,620 cases in 2013.  But the recent surge in crime could see to higher figures for 2014.

The same annual crime report says in 2013, 7,095 cases of break-ins were investigated compared to 7, 340 cases in 2012, reflecting a decrease of 3.4% while 18, 146 cases of thefts were investigated in 2013 as compared to 20, 649 cases in 2012 reflecting a decrease of 13.8%. Yet burglary alone, which recorded 3,846, was among the top 10 crimes registered. This means the crime was on a lowly trend.

The other danger is that the new crime trend of break-ins and burglary appears to be carried out by highly organised gangs.

This can be easily picked from what appears to be a rising spate of violent crime across the country.

On Sept. 5 Excel Supermarket, also in Kajjansi, was attacked, the guard killed, and goods stolen after a break in.

On Sept. 12 at around 3am thieves broke into a university students’ hostel in Kampala.

At about 5am on Sept. 29, passengers aboard a Kampala bound taxi from Luwero were robbed of all their possessions at gun point by two pistol welding men. Majority of the passengers were traders.

On Oct. 14 the Uganda Wildlife Authority outpost in Bukwo, Kapakaburi was attacked and a ranger attached to Mount Elgon National Park was killed.

Experts like Egesa say, the rise in crime should have been anticipated and planned for by police.

“As a country advances so does crime, especially general crime which needs a formation, design and procedure for intelligence. Today this is not happening in the Uganda police, because there is no specialisation,” he says.

Egesa says it is a mistake to find a police constable in the traffic department today, in CID next month, and the other month in the Environment Protection Force and so on. He says such a constable will not master any policing skills,

“All they can do best is to give a SITREP (situational report).

“Today the CID is not fully empowered and allowed to flow,” he says, “What has happened is that Gen. Kayihura has built a very strong efficient crack force but has failed on building a strong police intelligence unit.”

He says this is partly because the boss, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kale Kayihura, is an army general and “sees things only in the way they are done in the army.”

But, Egesa says, unlike army operations, the techniques of tackling domestic insecurity do not change much. What is needed is intelligence gathering and this requires creation of an intelligence brain bank.

“There should be steady brains that sit and analyze, assess, and counter,” he says, “If this is not there criminals take the day and it becomes very easy for them to earn through crime.”

He suggests that what is needed now is an IGP in charge of domestic intelligence who hails from a domestic intelligence background.

“Lack of a supervisor or an oversight body above the CID has made the police a breeding ground for corruption because officers know once a case is reported they can manipulate it and no one will ask them their interest in that case.

“All the retired domestic intelligence officers should be kept active in service like is the case in China or in the west because letting them sit idle yet they have a lot of knowledge is not only a big waste but a security threat to the country as the case is slowly appearing to be in Uganda,” he says.

More personnel needed

In their defence, Police spokesperson Fred Enanga says the lack of planning in Uganda’s urban centres, including Kampala, foments crime.

“It has led to sprawling slums, with inaccessible roads and poor lighting which breeds crime and makes police response to incidences tricky,” he says.

Then he hints on a problem that refuses to go away; the lack of personnel.

Enanga says there is growing general crime because the huge numbers of people moving from the rural countryside to urban centres like Kampala are putting pressure on policing needs.

Although the general number of police personnel has risen from about 20,000 five years ago to about 45,000 today and counting, Enanga says more are needed.

“People are coming to Kampala in the hope of getting jobs and when they fail, they resort to other means some of which is crime.  Also the cost of living has gone so high that people are devising alternative means thus resorting to crime,” he says.

The Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Defense and Internal Affairs, Namugwanya Benny Bugembe, agrees with Enanga that the lack of jobs leads to high crime levels.

“Unemployment has reached very high and unbearable levels,” she says, “many people are attracted to Kampala when looking for jobs and when they fail getting the jobs some resort to crime.”

She says her committee has advised the government to recruit and deploy more policemen. “The police budget is to be increased to do more community policing,” she says. But, she adds, the government has to come up with a comprehensive plan to employ the youth.

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