24 February 2018

Uganda: Panic As New Wave of Kidnaps Hits Kampala

Photo: This Day

Kampala — In just this month of February, Saturday Monitor has documented six people who their families reported kidnapped.

In the year 2017, at least 24 cases of kidnap were reported to the police. Of these 24, one person was found dead, 15 were rescued alive while eight are still missing.

According to a report by the Flying Squad Unit of the police, 27 suspects were arrested, 16 were charged in courts of law and 11 are under inquiry.

Mr Emilian Kayima, the police spokesperson, says many of the kidnaps "are a result of relationships going sour, constituting crimes of passion".

Mr Kayima adds: "There are business deals too as well as outright criminality. We advise all people to report if it takes 24 hours when your person goes missing. It's imperative to deal with officers directly to avoid possible abuse and unnecessary delays. Thirdly, quick reporting results in quick responses. It should be our duty to jointly fight these crimes and bring the criminals to book."

In what looks like a growing trend of abductions for ransom in the country, families are living in fear of losing their loved ones. Some, such as the families of Susan Magara, 28, and Philip Tumwebaze, 27, have turned to prayer.

It is the same thread of hope the family of Isaac Makubuya, 27, who went missing on February 13 after he got a call to go repair computers somewhere on Kampala Road, is holding onto, a family friend who we cannot name for their safety, said.

Details of how he disappeared were still sketchy by press time with friends and family we contacted promising to get back to us later.

Hope

The families of the missing are counting on the luck and efforts that reunited Ms Fatuma Sendagire Nabiwemba with her family on February 6, more than two months after she was taken.

Ms Nabiwemba, a senior prosecutor at the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), had disappeared on December 12, 2017 from her matrimonial home in Wampeewo, Gayaza.

The family, the police and DPP, who appealed for public support for her safe return, declined to discuss the details of her return. A huge ransom, sources say, was paid to secure her release.

"She and her family preferred it out of the media and we respected their privacy," Mr Kayima said in response to our inquiry on Thursday.

DPP spokesperson Jane Okuo Kajuga did not say much in a statement following Ms Nabiwemba's release.

"She is alive and well and is reunited with her family. We are not at liberty to share any further information at this material time as investigations continue. We, however, call for respect of the privacy of Fatuma and her family during this sensitive time to allow for her recovery from the traumatic experience of her disappearance," Ms Kajuga said.

On Thursday, another incident was reported in which the police rescued twin girls aged five from a suspected kidnapper who had relocated from Luweero District to a guest house in Masindi District where he asked for Shs13 million ransom from their parents.

The suspect allegedly tricked the twins at the home of their parents in Mabaale Zone, Luweero Town Council that he was going to buy them eats before disappearing with them.

Worrying development

In 2010, 18-month-old Kham Kakama was kidnapped from his parents' home in Bugolobi Flats and killed. In 2016, Deniel Weldo, an Eritrean businessman, was kidnapped and killed.

Mystery, like in Ms Nabiwemba's case, surrounds the disappearance of Ms Magara, who has been missing for more than 16 days now.

Ms Magara, who worked as an administrator at a family business owned by her father, Mr John Magara, was reportedly kidnapped from Lungujja in Rubaga Division, Kampala. Her car and other possessions were found abandoned about a few metres from her home in Mengo, Kampala.

Saturday Monitor understands that some people believed to be her captors have reached out to her close family in relation to her disappearance, but the close family members we reached out to, however, declined to discuss the matter, instead asking us to pray for their daughter.

Prayers, for her safe return coordinated by the Rotaract club of Bugolobi, were scheduled to take place yesterday at Christ the King Church, Kampala.

The family has also asked security agencies to stay out of ongoing attempts to trace her whereabouts; a condition sources say was put forward by her abductors.

Unconfirmed reports indicate that her kidnappers have demanded Shs3.6b ($1m) in ransom. Saturday Monitor could not independently verify this claim.

A strange case

The disappearance of Mr Tumwebaze, a bio-informatics specialist, is even more complicated. He has been kidnapped before.

Mr Tumwebaze left home around 5pm to buy airtime opposite Peace Gardens, Kyanja. He never returned.

That day, he was supposed to attend his wedding meetings at a location in Kampala. The meeting took place but he did not turn up. Hours went by and his family was alarmed and reported the matter to the police.

"We are still checking in hospitals but, so far, we have not been successful," a family member, who asked not to be named, said in an interview with Saturday Monitor.

In 2008, when Mr Tumwebaze was a student in Senior Six, he was kidnapped on his way from Makerere College School in what the family to-date believes could have been a ritual sacrifice attempt.

Unknown people, the family says, waylaid him in a commuter taxi and that is the last time he remembers where he was. When he woke up he was in a vehicle. He did not know where he was.

Eventually, he was put in a dark room and the people holding him where all donning masks. He was given food but he refused to eat. In the course of his holding, someone opened the door for him and told him to escape, he later told family members and friends.

He ran in what appeared to be a forest and when he got on the tarmac, he tried to solicit for help from motorists. But it was his captors who stopped in a Land Rover and took him back.

It is not clear why his captors lost interest in him, but Mr Tumwebaze, a fluent French speaker, was eventually released only to discover he was in Rwanda.

The authorities in Rwanda arrested and detained him on suspicion of being a spy. Ten days after his disappearance, authorities in Kigali contacted the police in Kampala. A team was dispatched to Kigali and brought him back to Uganda.

His family hopes even this time will have a happy ending. It would be better if Mr Tumukunde shows up ahead of his hitherto planned wedding on March 3.

Other cases

January 14, 2018: Three police officers were detained over kidnapping a Mulago hospital dentist and robbing him of Shs5.4m. Dr Keneth Majoku was kidnapped on December 20 in Mulago.

September 18, 2017: The Flying Squad Unit of the police rescued Mr Gerald Yashaba, who had been kidnapped by men led by a police superintendent. The kidnappers had threatened to kill him unless he paid a ransom of $100,000 (about Shs360m).

The kidnapers were reportedly led by superintendent of police Gerald Edyegu.

March 14, 2017: Faith Emmanuel Poni a four-year-old daughter of Emmanuel Daud Tombe, the South Sudan Consul in Uganda, was kidnapped from Kampala Parents' School on March 14, 2017. She was held captive for four days with her captors demanding a ransom of Shs18m from her parents before her rescue by the Police Flying Squad.

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