12 June 2019

Uganda: Gunmen Strike Kampala Again

Gunmen yesterday morning killed two mobile money operators and robbed them of unspecified amount of cash in Zzana on Entebbe Road , making it the eighth such armed robbery in Kampala Metropolitan area in the past six weeks.

The deceased were identified as Harriet Nalwadda ,35, a mobile money agent, and her worker Maureen Nakabuubi,25, both residents of Zzana.

The deceased were killed by five robbers armed with AK-47 automatic rifles and riding motorcycles without number plates.

In a separate incident yesterday, police officers engaged suspected armed robbers in a shootout at the suspects' residence in Masanafu in Rubaga Division.

Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesman, Superintendent of Police Patrick Onyango, said the gunmen shot and injured one of the police officers. The policeman, who was shot in the leg, was admitted to hospital.

Suspects

Police arrested one of the two suspects but his accomplice, a serving Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) solidier, escaped. Police recovered two guns belonging to the UPDF and two magazines containing 32 bullets. The guns had UPDF serial numbers for the Masaka area code.

The police suspect that the soldier, who escaped, is part of the group that has been behind armed robberies in Nansana Municipality in Wakiso District and Rubaga Division in Kampala City.

"The suspect on the run is Richard Kasirye. A big reward awaits any member of the public with information that can lead to his arrest," SP Onyango said.

Attacks on mobile money shops raged in 2014 and 2015 that even agents, who made a daily turnover of less than Shs10m had to hire armed guards to secure their premises.

The robberies ceased after intense operations in 2016 around the country especially in Mbale District, Makindye Division in Kampala, Arua Municipality, Nansana Municipality and Mbarara District.

Mr Tom Katamba, the chairman of Kampala mobile money Dealers Association, said yesterday that many of their members have scaled down on the security personnel or got rid of them at their shops due to costs.

"Commission on mobile money fell drastically, which affected the income of the mobile money agents. They couldn't afford paying armed guards to protect them," Mr Katamba said.

Last year, mobile money agents went on strike after government imposed taxes on their transaction and abolished scratch airtime cards.

Mr Katamba said telecommunication companies also cut the percentage of the commission to agents, forcing them to cut costs and do away with the budget on security.

"Agents now keep and move large sums of money, but without security. If you factor in security, you wouldn't get any profit. We are living under God's mercy," he said.

Security strategy

Following the rising spate of armed urban crime especially in Kampala Metropolitan area that covers the city, Mukono and Wakiso districts, President Museveni, in September last year, issued a 10-point security strategy which he assured the country would stop or eliminate the criminals.

He said government would instal CCTV cameras, introduce electronic vehicle number plates, give police officers radio calls and drones and deploy 24,000 Local Defence Unit personnel to police Kampala. Since then, 6,000 LDUs have been trained and deployed in the city centre to conduct patrols to check criminals.

Government has so far spent at least Shs560 billion on installation of CCTV cameras in Kampala and neighbouring areas and deployed thousands of LDUs but armed criminals have continued to terrorise Kampala and its outskirts uninterrupted.

Two weeks ago, armed robbers shot dead three people and injured three others at Cheap General Hardware in Nansana town on Hoima Road in Wakiso despite the installation of CCTV cameras. No suspect has been arrested.

The Inspector General of Police Martins Okoth Ochola claimed trucks parked in the foreground blocked the cameras from capturing the raid.

During the launch of CCTV camera project at Nateete Police Station last year, acting Director of ICT, Commissioner Felix Balyamwisaki, said the cameras have the technology to automatically detect unusual movements of people in case of an attack and trigger an alarm in the Control Room to alert the police about the strange incident. However this did not happen in the Nansana raid.

Eight days ago, police and Internal Security Organisation foiled a robbery by three heavily armed soldiers at Fang Fang Hotel in Nakasero in the city centre.

Crime report

According to the police 2018 crime report released recently, more than 7,000 robbery cases were registered last year, higher than the 6,850 cases reported in 2017.

A total of 2,181 cases involved use of lethal weapons, and targeted items included motor vehicles, motor cycles and cash.

Robbery. A total of Shs8b was robbed in 2018 alone, said police, who recovered Shs247m.

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