Uganda: Police Scale Up Security in Kampala Public Places

22 January 2019

Kampala — A regular visitor at Kampala Central Police Station (CPS) and police headquarters in Naguru, a city suburb, must have already noticed some changes at quarter guards of the respective places.

The number of police officers deployed to man the places have almost doubled up; with visitors and anyone accessing the premises subjected to thorough checks, a change in tact compared with the days before terrorists struck DusitD2 hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, claiming 21 lives.

A day after the Nairobi incident, Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP), Abbas Byakagaba, issued a memo instructing all unit commanders to be on high alert to ensure all avenues that could be used by terrorists are closely monitored.

At CPS, journalists who had gone to cover a press conference, were yesterday blocked for some minutes until police spokesperson Fred Enanga arrived.

Police officers at the quarter guard said they blocked the members of the fourth estate after their superiors ordered them not to allow in cameras.

However, a police constable said police authorities developed cold feet following last week's expose by Salt TV, a local television station, of the security lapse at the CPS.

Journalists from the Mengo-based media house last week gained access to the police facility with all their gadgets unchecked.

The deputy Kampala metropolitan police spokesperson, Mr Luke Owoyesigyire, confirmed the new guidelines and that media houses are now required to send not more than two journalists to a police event.

Threats

Meanwhile, city dwellers were for the most part of yesterday morning treated to a terror scare after unknown people circulated text messages, audio messages and social media alerts urging Ugandans to stay home because al-Shabaab terrorists were planning to hit Kampala in two weeks' time.

Other texts claimed that up to four terrorists had been apprehended by security personnel with a number of explosive devices and several rounds of ammunitions.

However, Mr Enanga urged the public to disregard the alerts, saying they are false and intended to cause panic and disorganise business.

Other alerts also indicated that Violet Kemunto, aka Khadija, a woman associated with Ali Salim Gichunge - one of the terrorists believed to have been shot dead in the Nairobi attack - had entered the country armed with explosives and bullets.

The alert described Ms Kemunto as dangerous person, who kills without mercy; and is wanted by the Kenyan police.

The alerts alleged that her last phone records were tracked in the direction of Uganda. However, Mr Enanga said the document was not authentic.

"The police will only release information including terror alerts upon accurate and honest acknowledgement of any real threats. The public is asked to go about their business normally without any fear," Mr Enanga said.

Mr Enanga said the country has no specific threats, although the police and its sister security agencies continue to actively monitor and share information with the regional counterparts.

Much as security has been heightened at CPS and police headquarters, a brief survey by this newspaper yesterday showed that security in many public places, especially shopping malls, supermarkets, bus and taxi parks, had not been beefed up

However, some supermarkets, for example, Shoprite, Mega standard, Pioneer Mall and Oasis mall had at least one or two security guards who majorly check cars and bags.

The business people operating in these areas said they have security who only come in to handle any chaos that arises from thefts, fights, but do not check people entering the buildings.

At least by yesterday there were no guards checking people at Old and New taxi parks.

A policeman, who was found standing nearby a police booth, said they were too few to check thousands of people entering and leaving the parks as well as shopping centres.

He said Kampala Capital Authority (KCCA) was responsible for providing security at parks before adding that their meagre pay also demoralises their efforts to protect Ugandans.

"Before you ask about the number of policemen, remember you people pretend to be paying us. We also pretend to be working," the policeman said as he smiled seeming unbothered.

Mr Robert Mukisa, a taxi driver, said there are a number of disagreements that happen inside parks but in most cases there is no security to handle the situations.

Congestions

Another taxi driver, who identified himself as David, said putting checkpoints would cause more congestion at taxi park entrances.

KCCA spokesperson Peter Kaujju said security concerning the parks is the role of the police.

"We manage the area but law and order is done by police on behalf of the government of Uganda," Mr Kaujju said.

The last time the parks experienced tight security was after the al-Shabaab attacks in Kampala City in July 2010.

Security agencies invested a lot in both hardware and human resource. This was after the twin bombings at Kyadondo Rugby club and Ethiopian Village Restaurant in Kabalagala that cost lives of at least 76 revellers.

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