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Moroto prison break was imminent- Insiders

Escapees fled towards Mt. Moroto and many have since disappeared with no clear traces. File photo

Moroto, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The escape of prisoners from Moroto government prison last week isn’t surprising according to inside sources. They note that there have been unresolved management flaws that didn’t receive attention from top management.

“For all the years I have worked in Moroto prisons, selection of guards inside prison cells was based on their ethnicity either Acholi/Langi or Itesot. This was strategically done to ensure that the inmates, majority Karimojong somehow interact with guards and share concerns. But from around November 2018, the deployment changed and was done carelessly. This in a way has contributed to several unresolved issues”, one of the staff revealed to URN.

Another source told our reporter that the inmates hatched plans to escape sometimes in the presence of officers on guard using the local language. “Even on Wednesday, the prisoners made a move while speaking in Ngakarimojong without the officer realizing. By the time they grabbed his gun and ordered him down, more forces had formed and it was difficult to control them.”

The sources also claim that the officer in charge of Moroto prison Norman Aruho lacked management skills and has been disrespectful to both his staff and inmates.

“The guy is very arrogant. When inmates come with complaints or any issues that need his attention, he slaps them and has been belittling Karimojong as ‘warriors’ whom he describes as backward and useless. Because he doesn’t understand the language, he is always suspicious of everything especially when officers who know some bit of Ngakarimojong talk with prisoners. On the day of the attack, his office was the first target but he was not around”, another source said.

As a result, nine staff employees have since deserted prison service in Moroto within two years. The deserters include one officer at the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Prisons- ASP, Principal Officer- PO, two corporals and five warders. Information indicates that the prisoners were only scheming plans on how to access the armory which is located around the entrance.

The sources note that immediately an opportunity presented itself at dinner time, the inmates executed the long-awaited plan.

What happened inside Moroto prison? 

On the fateful day of the breakout, the mood inside in the prisons was tense as inmates looked anxious. They kept moving up and down while others were seen making press-ups in the compound. A good number comprising Karimojong inmates were seen in groups of five to seven people. But the unsuspecting officers kept cool and never bothered to interfere.

According to the sources, the real action started around 2:00 pm when inmates captured all the officers inside the prisons. They disarmed them and confiscated all their phones and waited for meal time to storm out. The inmates formed groups and took care of all corners of surveillance within prison cells.

They broke into the armory using logs and stones they collected from the compound. At the time, some officers heard the noise and ran to the gate. But it was too late since the inmates had taken over all corners. The officer who tried to confront the inmates had only two bullets. “After shooting the first victim who aimed at the orderly officer he had to run for his life because there were no more bullets”, an eye witness narrates.

Sources add that police arrived at the scene about 20 minutes after most of the inmates had disappeared into the jungles of Mt. Moroto.

Who are the escapees?

Information so far indicates that most of the escapees are Karimojong and ex-soldiers. They are all males facing charges related to illegal possession of firearms, murder and cattle theft. Some of the escapees were convicts while others waited to appear before the court-martial. Inside the cells, there were also tribal sentiments as Karimojong left other tribes out of their plans. They wanted people who are well- versed with the geography of the area to easily disappear.


Last week, 30 inmates and four prison staff tested positive for COVID-19. The mood in the cells changed with several inmates in panic. The inmates were concerned about their lives but there were little efforts by the management to pacify them. They raised issues of inadequate food and expressed concern on how they would survive within the confinement without proper feeding.

“There was no adequate counselling of inmates amidst scary reports of the pandemic. They started telling us that they would rather die of bullets if that can be the case rather than waiting to perish in cells. At the time, no one suspected a thing especially this kind of development”, a source revealed.

Frank Baine, the Uganda Prisons spokesman declined to comment on the issues raised saying he will only respond after getting a report from the team of investigators currently on the ground.

Since the escape of 219 inmates on Wednesday evening, the official records show that three inmates and a soldier were put out of action. Ten has so far been captured. No gun, among the 15 reportedly stolen by the inmates has been recovered.



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