2 July 2012

Uganda: Rape Drugs on Sale

The events of May 12 will remain etched on Sheila's mind as she battles to shake off her experience in the hands of rapists. On the fateful day, she received an invitation from one of the social groups on Facebook to attend a social outing in one of the Kampala happening places. The rest is a painful memory

I did not ask my parents if I could go because I knew they would say no since they still regarded me as a teenager". As she entered the venue, nobody seemed to think about her. "I sat down in one of the corners not sure what to do.

Desperate for company, I looked around and right in front of me I could see a tall dark curly-haired, man staring at me. For a little while, I pretended not to notice him. He was a very attractive man. He smiled and I smiled back.

He then moved towards me carrying a bottle of beer. "Sorry, I'm scaring you aren't I?" He said lightly. Even though it wasn't true, I replied: "How could you tell?"

"Lucky guess", he said with a smile. He then asked whether I wanted a beer, as he handed me one. I took it and thanked him. He told me to let him know when I needed another.

After about 20 minutes, he showed up with another one. He smiled and left. I took a few more sips and my head started feeling heavy. He then came with a third bottle. I was going to say no but he had put it in my hand before I could say anything. This time he didn't leave. He talked to me as we took to the dance floor.

We chatted for a bit about life and I found out his name was Michael, an engineer with one of the leading telecom companies.

By this time the effect of the booze had started taking a toll on me. He saw me staggering and asked if I felt okay. He asked if I wanted to sit down and offered to take me to the rooftop to get some fresh air. He put his arm around me and led me to the top. We sat down and I remember him talking to me till I couldn't talk any more.

He then reached for my blouse and I could see his hand tearing my buttons. I wanted to push his hand away but couldn't lift my arms. I could feel his hands undoing my belt and then my trousers and panties.

The worst was yet to come. As he left, a second person came in. I wanted to scream but I could not.

I could feel tears flowing down the side of my head. After him came a dozen more guys took their turns on me. I passed out a few times, so every time I would open my eyes it was someone different from the one I had seen before.

She was only saved from the savages by the night watchman, who rushed her to Mulago Hospital, where Sunday Vision found her days later. Tests would later show that her drink had been spiked with a drug. Kampala Extra Police spokesperson Ibin Ssekumbi says that they had received many cases of people being spiked or had inhaled drugs and thereafter robbed or raped.

Spiking is adding drugs or alcohol to someone's beverage (often alcoholic) without their permission. "Most cases of drink spiking occur with the intention of sexual assault or robbery.

Other reasons include kidnapping, anger toward the chosen victim or entertainment".

He says that women are the most common targets of this crime. "Most cases of drink spiking occur in night clubs, bars and parties." According to medical experts, thugs have resorted to using pharmaceuticals drugs often used for surgical purposes for their criminal works.

"When someone's drink is spiked, they often do not realize it until it is too late and they are either unconscious or unable to communicate properly. Unfortunately, in many cases of drink spiking the victim does not even realise anything is wrong until the event has passed and they wake up uncomfortable and with memory loss," he says.

Dizziness, blackouts, poor body coordination and decreased inhibitions are just a few of the effects of drink spiking. Akankwasa says the effects of drink spiking differ for each person. "Reactions differ based on a person's age, sex, size and type of drug or alcoholic beverage used. Common effects include unconsciousness, decreased inhibitions, paralysis, slurring of speech and memory loss.

Doctors explain what to do if you suddenly become dizzy after receiving a drink or eating laced food. "Please, run to safety or immediately call for help," says Dr. Gerald Akankwasa of Prime Medical Clinic in Bweyogerere.

A Kampala-based investigation carried out by Sunday Vision indicates that some of the drugs used by rapists and thieves are openly sold in pharmacies quite cheaply and without prescription. An undercover reporter started by finding out, from the Police, the drugs that thugs use to immobilize their victims. Within half a day, he was able to buy three of these drugs from different pharmacies and drug shops in Kampala.

He obtained one without prescription and two using a fake prescription.

Not religious at all

Joan met Peter at church during one of the singles meetings. "We exchanged telephone numbers and started talking to each other. He seemed like a nice person and had a lot in common. I invited him over to my house after two months. But alas!

He had other plans!" Mike as she refers to him, gave her a drink. "I remember getting drunk after only one drink and my speech became slurred. I then passed out but I came to, I was naked with Mike on top of me. I couldn't move and could barely speak. He proceeded to rape me for hours. He never used protection."

Two months after the incident she is sad, hurt and experiences constant emotional outbursts. Her HIV test has turned positive.

Paul was not lucky either. He lost his car to a lady he offered a lift. "I was heading home to Mukono.

After the Jinja Road round-about a lady flagged me down. It was coming to midnight and I sympathised with her." All he remembers was him telling her to sit in the co-driver's chair. "She pulled out a hankie and waved it a cross my face."

Unknown to him, Mariam was part of a gang who use women to lure their prey and rob them when they become unconscious.

"I felt drowsy and the car came to a halt. She first ransacked my pockets and later pushed me out of the car and drove off." These deadly drugs can be administered through as sprays, cigarettes, gum, liquid or powder.

Typically, travellers are approached by someone asking for directions; the drug is concealed in a piece of paper and is blown into the victim's face.


For Sharon a law student in Makerere University, she did not only lose her tuition fees but the thugs even escorted her to a nearby ATM and she withdrew all her savings and gave it to them.

"I was in Wandegeya going to bank my semester's fees when I met a stranger at the bank entrance. He greeted me and introduced himself as Rukundo from Rukungiri. He told me he was looking for directions to Mulago Hospital. His wife was expecting."

"I felt compassionate and offered to escort him to the Ntinda stage where he could board a car to Mulago." Unaware, Rukundo had smeared himself with a drug that caused her to get confused and docile. "I suddenly became docile and soon Rukundo was joined by an accomplice and all I remember is telling them how much money I had on me and what I had in the bank."

She handed them the sh1.5m she was taking to the bank and in the company of the crooks, walked to the bank. The thieves even helped me fill in the withdrawal slip and I emptied my bank account and gave them the money, together with my two phones and the laptop I was carrying." She only came to her senses an hour later but the thugs were gone.

A 21-year-old prostitute whom we met along Nile Avenue told Sunday Vision that they often use one of the drugs on their clients to rob them.

"We smear the drug on our breasts and luring their victims to take a lick and get drugged."

Peter, a trader

Peter, a trader plying the Juba- Nairobi route, lost all his money to a business lady he invited over to his room. "The hotel attendant found me naked the next morning." Peter doesn't remember anything.

He just remembers getting romantic with the woman and then blacking out. Last year the Police apprehended a thief called Juliana, described as a very dangerous lady. Juliana would later confess that she often applied a drug to her bra to make men become sleepy as they kissed her. She would then rob them.

Thieves also laced food and often times offered it to guards. Last year thugs broke into Shumuk Forex bureau and made off with money after giving the guard on duty a laced chapatti. They also target travellers on long journeys. One of the drugs erases one's short-term memory to the extent that victims cannot even identify their aggressors.

Facts about date rape drugs

Date-rape drugs are drugs that are normally used for medical purposes, but rapists use them to immobilise their victims and commit a crime. The drugs make you weak and unable to resist or shout. Some even erase memory so that later you are not able to identify the rapist and or robber. The drugs often have no colour, odour or taste and you cannot notice if they add it to your soda or beer.

What do these drugs look like?

They come in many forms, the most common being liquid, powder or pills that dissolves in liquid quickly.

What are the effects of these drugs on the victims?

Drowsiness, dizziness, slow heart rate, loss of consciousness, inability to remember what happened while drugged, coma or worse, death

Protecting yourself

Kampala Extra Police spokesperson Ibin Ssekumbi says, one can keep him or herself safe while in a public place, bar or restaurant by doing the following.

Be wary about accepting drinks from anyone you do not know well or long enough to trust.

Do not offer lifts to strangers or handshakes.

Never leave your drink unattended.

Do not accept opened drinks from anyone but a bartender or server. If you accept a drink, make sure it is from an unopened container and that you open the container yourself.

Attend parties or visit bars with a group of friends; arranging beforehand to watch each other's drinks.

If you arrive as a group, leave as a group.

Watch out for your friends. If a friend shows symptoms of drug ingestion, seek medical attention immediately.

Expert's comment

It is International; the sale of these drugs between countries is regulated by the International Narcotics Control Board which gives each country a quota. In Uganda, the National Drug Authority (NDA) is in charge of regulating these drugs. NDA's Executive Secretary,

Dr. Gordon Sematiko, says that the sale of these drugs is regulated through licensed pharmacies which are only supposed to sell them to people with prescriptions from qualified medical personnel but admits that there could be spillages in the black market.

"For one to import these drugs you must have a special license from NDA and we usually send this license to the country of origin and they also send us a copy confirming the quantities and type of drug one intends to import from them."

In reality, however, we are living in danger because obtaining these drugs is a lot easier than what is on paper.

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