Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Uganda Prisons has said they were not surprised that inmates who escaped from Singila government prison in Moroto district ran away with guns.
On Wednesday, 219 inmates overpowered two prison guards who had gone to serve them supper and escaped from custody. However, before they could run away, they broke into the prisons armory and took with them 14 guns according to Frank Baine the spokesperson of the Uganda prisons.
Baine said that Ugandans and people of Karamoja shouldn’t fear saying these escapees might have been driven by other motives to take the guns.
Baine added that although the government has largely been successful in its disarmament exercise, it’s almost impossible to completely withdraw all guns from Karamojongs.
In the early 2000’s, the government engaged on the program of disarming Karamojongs who for over 20 years had made guns as part of their way of life. Almost every Karamojong had a gun which they used to protect their cattle to avoid rustling from other cattle keeping communities not only in Uganda but also in Kenya and South Sudan.
However, they too regularly raided themselves and other communities from Teso which in many times led to the deaths of people.
Baine said apart from the seven escapees who were captured and returned to prison and the three who were shot dead they have not yet managed to track down the rest.
In a statement signed by the deputy spokesperson Lt. Col. Deo Akiiki, of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces [UPDF], he said that they are doing whatever is possible to track down the other 199 escapes.
“UPDF calls for calmness as we pursue these escapees, the people in general areas of Moroto, Napak, Matany and neighbouring districts are called upon to be vigilant and inform leaders, police or the military of anybody they suspect to be alien to their area,” the statement says.
However, the statement from the UPDF says that the escapees ran way with 15 guns contrary to the prison’s story of 14 guns. When asked about the contradictions, Baine said people should go with his record.
Asked about the general security situation of not only Singila but also other prisoners around the country, Baine said that the situation is normal everywhere and doesn’t need any form of heightened security. He said the fact that prisoners were able to escape from their facility is not proof that there is something they are not doing right.
“Prisoners world over will always want to escape but that doesn’t mean we are not doing our job,” Baine said.
On the specific details of the prisoners, their names and the charges for which they were imprisoned, Baine said so far, all their energy is geared towards finding the escapees.
“That prison had 684 inmates, we are remaining with 465 inmates, what’s the first thing to do? You go to the file to check details or you run after those who have run away? The people who would be compiling records for me are the ones on the front line chasing these people. Over time we shall get the record because each prisoner has a warrant,” Baine said.
Of the 219 inmates who had escaped, 108 were being held on gun-related charges of which 20 had been convicted.