Petty crime, terrorists or dirty politics?
By the end of August, close to 30 people, mostly of advanced age, had been hacked to death. Interestingly, as the murders were piling up, the government and the security agencies uncharacteristically remained quiet.
Even more baffling was the fact that the government had instituted a curfew in March last year as part of its efforts to fight the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For 18 straight months now, civilians have been expected to be in their homesteads starting at 7pm, leaving only members of the security forces to patrol villages and suburbs in urban areas.
But survivors have been speaking of how, often times, the victims have been left under the mercy of the assailants. Locals have been telling the media how the assailants often drop anonymous letters in villages before their attack. The anonymous letters are reported to the police. But the police do not take any action.
As the attackers sometimes spell out names of their victims and attack the village on the day they warned, the public has been left grappling in the dark for answers. Are the perpetrators common criminals? Are they terrorists? Or this is just dirty politics at play?
When he finally came out to speak on the murders, in late August, Gen. David Muhoozi, the Minister of State for Internal Affairs said the killings were “terrorist acts.”
Muhoozi was in the company of other security officials; including the Director of Operations, AIGP Edward Ochom, Director of Crime Intelligence, Brig. Jack Bakasumba and the Resident District Commissioners from Greater Masaka.
According to Police, the criminal assailants established two domestic cells in Lwengo and Masaka that were operating independently. Both cells were mainly targeting elderly people staying alone and other vulnerable individuals found moving home during night time.
But on Aug.31, the last day police recorded a murder in the sub-region, President Yoweri Museveni came out and spoke about the murders; revealing that some political actors were behind the blood bath in Greater Masaka.
Museveni who was at Kololo Independence Ground in Kampala during the passing out of prison-warders said the murders were perpetrated by political opponents of his NRM government.
“There are people who think that they can destabilize NRM and Uganda. This is just self-deception. No force can defeat us either politically or militarily, like those people who have been attacking old people.”
“Those groups are finished politically because once we bring evidence in court and say so and so is the one who sent those young people on marijuana to kill an old man of 80, where will you be? Everybody will see that you’re pigs.”
President Museveni’s revelation appears to have jolted the Police into action. On Sept. 06, Fred Enanga, the Police Spokesperson, told the media how the joint security agencies have been actively investigating the vicious murders in Masaka and Lwengo Districts.
He said Police had arrested close to 60 suspects and screened 23 who admitted to participating in the murderous rampage, and led the task team to selected scenes of crime, for reconstruction. “Our task teams managed to foil attacks in Butenga, Bukomansimbi, after machete-wielding assailants were sighted while looking for prospective murder victims,” he said.
“We want to thank the public in the three districts of Masaka, Lwengo and Bukomansimbi for volunteering information and for their level of increased vigilance,” Enanga said. He said some of the killers in Masaka and Lwengo were identified with the help of the community.
Then, on Sept. 07, in a sudden twist of events, two youthful opposition MPs; Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye Division West, NUP) and Ssegirinya Muhammad (Kawempe Division North, NUP) were charged with the murder of Mugerwa Kiiza Francis, Kakooza Sulaiman at Ssettaala village and Tadeo Kiyimba at Ssenya village in Masaka City. This, court said, happened on Aug.23 this year.
On Sept. 08, President Museveni met some of the families who lost their loved ones in the killings of Greater Masaka and gave each of the 25 families Shs 10 million.
“We shall get these criminals,” Museveni told them, “Some suspects have been arrested because they left all sorts of clues that we are following.”
But it appears the threat of the machete-wielding tormenters is not over yet. Instead it appears the threat is spreading to other regions of the country. On Sept. 06, Enanga said the joint security agencies are still concerned about the increased circulation of anonymously written threats to selected communities.
In some of the anonymous “letters,” the authors, who remain unknown, have warned of violence against selected members of the community, NRM leaders, local leaders and business persons.
The anonymous letters have popped up in districts of Mityana, Jinja, Kawempe Division in Kampala, and some areas in western Uganda.