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Ugandan Kidnappers

Why police is catching them now

Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | Rose Nakisekka, a 17-year old student was kidnapped on May 10. Her body was discovered on May 14 in Nalumunye near Kampala. Her father had negotiated her ransom from Shs10 million to Shs1 million which he paid. But the kidnappers had already killed the girl.

Days later, police arrested three of the kidnappers, including a witchdoctor named Ali Ddumba Ali. A combined force of police and military intelligence personnel linked the group to the murder of another girl, Brinah Nalule, a student of YMCA Buwambo campus.

Nalule was kidnapped at Old Taxi Park at around 7pm on May 6 as she headed back to her hostel after spending two days at the home of a pastor, one Ronald Wambuzi, in Namwezzi, Mbikko Town Council in Buikwe District. Her kidnappers wanted money that her parents did not have. The kidnappers had used her mobile phone to demand the ransom which the parents could not raise in two days. Her badly mutilated body was recovered in Kibaawo Zone in Mutundwe, Lubaga Division. It later emerged that Pastor Wambuzi was linked to the kidnappers. He is in jail.

Around May 24 Police in Mbarara arrested three men suspected to be kidnappers.

They were identified as 60 year-old William Kikukula, 58-year old Naboth Musinguzi, who was masquerading as a catholic priest, and 30- year old Bonny Omara. They had grabbed a fuel pump attendant and tied him up but he managed to escape and tip the police. Their motive was not clear and their accomplice escaped.

On May 19, police arrested police constable John Kalume and Moses Mukiibi over the kidnap of one Michael Kisinga from Bwaise Growers. They demanded Shs2 million as ransom from his wife who reported the matter to police. They use a tinted van. It later emerged that the victim was a robber and the trio was wrangling over a deal gone bad.

Police on May 21 released a report showing it had recorded over 80 cases of kidnap between March and May. That is almost one case every day. Although the report covered the whole country, most of the cases were in central Uganda and in or near the capital, Kampala.

But at least 60 of the cases recorded turned out to be false alarms and self-kidnaps. Of the 20 serious cases, eight resulted in death. That is about three deaths every month and a severe spike from the normal. Over three years, from 2015 to 2018, police had recorded 48 cases of kidnap.

But in January and February, Police recorded 28 kidnappings, compared with 24 in the whole of 2017 and three in 2014. In February alone, six people were reported as missing following kidnaps.

Police say many of the kidnaps are crimes of passion or relationships gone sour. Some are business deals gone bad. A few are what police called “utter criminality.”

In one case, for example, when on May 17, 24-year old Doreen Nsimire – a waitress – left home in Nakiwogo near Kampala and did not return, her brother reported a case of suspected kidnap to police in Hoima. When police started investigating they found she had eloped with a boyfriend.

Still in May, police in Kibuku District, eastern Uganda, arrested three people suspected to be involved in the kidnapping of a 24-year-old woman, Norah Nakoma on May 20. She was found abandoned near River Mpologoma along Mbale-Tirinyi road. The suspects included Maria Kadondi Goretti, 50, the victim’s step mother, Moses Kiirya, 32, and Fabian Wabulwa, 23, both step brothers to the victim.

On May 25, Christine Nabasumba, 25, a mobile money agent in Busega, was feared kidnapped. Her father’s worst fear appeared confirmed when on May 27 she called him saying her kidnappers wanted a ransom of Shs10 million. He immediately alerted police. Barely a few hours later, on May 28, the police called him to say they had found his daughter – in a nearby guest house. She had faked her own kidnap to get money from her father.

Before that, police had arrested one Amina Mirembe after she made phone calls to her boyfriend James Mugoda claiming she had been kidnapped by two men who were asking for a ransom. She later told police that she had faked her kidnap to test whether her boyfriend could pay a ransom as a sign of his love to her. He did not and, instead, alerted police.

But the bigger question people are asking is why, it appears, the police and other investigative arms of the state are scoring more and credible arrests of criminals recently? Until recently, kidnappings in Uganda were rare compared to countries like Nigeria and Mexico but Police says the crime has risen over the last three years.

Technology tracks criminals

From the analysis, it appears several factors are at play including structural and operational changes in the operations of security agencies, including changes in their leadership and increased cooperation and mutual sharing of intelligence information. The other, it appears, is increased reliance on technology.

Before the current wave of arrests, police had made some arrests. On March 1, for example, they arrested two men; Godie Kasenya and Sam Mugula in connection with the kidnapping of children for ransom. In one case the eight-year old boy was recovered.

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