20 February 2019

Uganda: What's Driving Child Kidnaps, Murders?

Kampala — Three children were kidnapped and killed between Friday and Sunday last week in Kampala city and Wakiso District, bringing the number of victims to 10 since the year began.

The body of Gift Margaret Aketch, 3, was found in a sack in Canan-Mutungo Zone IV, Nakawa Division, on Monday. The body was discovered by a neighbour who became suspicious of a sack placed in a trench.

Upon moving closer, the resident saw the feet that were popping out whereas the rest of the body parts were stashed in the sack. The locals immediately announced the sad news on a community radio. It was upon this that Ms Amin Yabbe and Mr Centurio Odong learnt that their daughter, who had been missing for two days, had been killed.

Ms Yabbe told police that she entered her house on Saturday afternoon to rest and left her daughter playing with the neighbour's children but she could not trace her when she woke up.

"When I woke up, I looked for my child but I could not see her. I reported to police. I am saddened that my girl was killed by heartless people. I don't know why my child has been killed," Ms Yabbe wept before police.

Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango said police had already got some clues on the killing and was hopeful the killers would be arrested.

"I cannot disclose the clues we have got about this murder because it would jeopardise our investigations. Just know we are getting vital information about this crime," Mr Onyango said.

Aketch's killing came hours after a six-year-old boy, Jonathan Ssempereza, was also killed at Kireka Market on Sunday night. The victim was persuaded by a stranger with sweets at around 8pm when the mother, Esther Nambasa, had sent him alongside his eight-year-old brother to collect water. Ssempereza's throat was slit before he was dumped at his mother's food stall in the market.

Police spokesperson Fred Enanga said Ms Nambasa would be interviewed to understand whether she has any information of investigation value that could help identify the killers and their motive.

The sniffer dogs that police deployed tracked the killers but stopped abruptly on the Kampala-Jinja highway and lost the trail.

This, according to Mr Enanga, suggests the killers used motorised transport to flee.

"The mother was still in shock but we shall engage her to know whether she knows any information related to this juvenile's death. We ask parents to be vigilant and should not allow young children walk alone," Mr Enanga said.

On the same day, Gordon Kasirye, 14, a Senior Two student at Kasanje High School in Wakiso District, was found dead and dumped in a forest. Mr Onyango said the deceased left home with an unknown man but did not return.

"We arrested Stuart Kyagulanyi and he led us to a bush where he had left Kasirye's body. We suspect he strangled him to take his phone because we found him with the deceased's phone," Mr Onyango said. Police said the evidence so far collected pins Kyagulanyi and he has accordingly been charged with Kasirye's murder. Mr Onyango said the suspect would be arraigned before court within the week.

Other children murders

Last week, residents of Kaberebere Town Council in Isingiro District were shocked when police exhumed the body of a 14-year-old boy Elvis Kibuule, who was kidnapped, murdered and buried in a farm.

The incident came a week after police in Kampala had arrested a man accused of kidnapping and killing the teenager. The suspect was a resident of Kireka-Biira, Nakabugo Parish in Wakiso District.

On January 4, police recovered bodies of baby twins who were killed and packed in a sack in Piida Zone, Namasuba. During investigations, it was discovered that the children had been produced by one Zahara Namboozo but she strangled them five days later. Namboozo was apprehended. She was charged with murder in court last week.

On January 2, a four-year-old boy was kidnapped, killed and dumped in a septic tank. Alton Kabiri was killed on the eve of his birthday. Police arrested two suspects who have since been charged.

Police speak out

Mr Enanga and Mr Onyango cite economic benefits, revenge, family wrangles and jealousy among the reasons driving kidnaps and murders. They ruled out the child murders being orchestrated by an organised criminal gang.

"Most of these incidents are for ransom purposes. Such cases have involved money and some youth think it is the fastest way of making money. We have arrested some suspects," Mr Enanga said.

However, Mr Onyango said: "We have realised these murders have been as a result of selfish motives. Some have been as a result of wanting ransom while others are related to economic wrangles or family disputes."

Mr Enanga said police will intensify community policing to remind parents and community members to be vigilant, teach children to avoid lifts and gifts from strangers.

However, Enanga, said there are number of children who have been recovered alive. He added that several suspects have also been arrested.

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