Three words: shock, grief and fear capture the mood of residents of Mpakawelo -Lufula village, Bombo town council.
As families of the bereaved received bodies on Monday for burial, a shadow of fear, wave of grief and a state of shock was still hovering over the residents who witnessed last Friday’s gun attack.
At about midnight last Friday, UPDF Private Patrick Odok Okot suddenly started shooting at several people in a bar, ultimately killing nine in a hail of fire that some describe as unbelievable.
At the scene of the attack, the bar remains locked, with an inscription, “Gombe boys only” hanging imposingly at the door way. Posters of Coca-Cola also dot the rather dull building.
The bar, which has no name, used to operate 24 hours a day and seven days a week, with a soldier constantly on patrol. Just a distance from the scene, another man was shot as he came from his escapades to bring the number of victims to 10.
Soki Shamim, neighbour to Mama Jackie, the owner of the bar, says she last saw her neighbour in the evening of that Friday as she rushed to open her bar at around 4pm – little did they know it was the last time they saw her alive.
“She came to my house asking for some little water to wash her feet; that’s when I last saw her,” she says.
According to residents, Okot had wanted to rape the 14-year-old daughter of one Sgt Onesmus Adule and Florence Adule, both victims of the shooting, but the couple reported the case to police. This didn’t go down well with the trigger-happy Okot, who promised to exact terrible revenge.
Two days before the shooting, Okot had come to the same bar and closed the door with all the revellers inside. He later opened the door and left. Residents say this was the time he was hatching the plan.
“The Adules were not in the bar that day, but that’s the time he was planning how he would execute his plan later,” says Shamim.
“When he came back on Friday, he found them there and just shot whoever came his way.”
Deserters on rampage
Residents have also expressed concern over the behaviour of many army deserters that live in the area. They say that without jobs, the deserters have become serial thieves – terrorising residents every day. Sarah Nassimbwa, vice chairperson LC1, Mpakawelo village, told The Observer that the residents were more worried about their security because of the army veterans that stay in the area.
“I have a feeling that if someone leaves the army, he/she should be taken to their homes. But they are always loitering here. Last time we arrested one of them selling the saucepans he had stolen from our neighbour,” Nassimbwa says.
Consequently, Daily Monitor quoted the army leadership ordering all army deserters to immediately leave the area or risk arrest. The army is yet to make an official comment on the matter as UPDF spokesman Col Felix Kulayigye was reported out of the country, while his assistant said he was not the right person to speak.
Just days after the shooting, at least two families have left the area. Some residents have linked the shifts to the incident.
“People are scared; that’s why they are shifting,” Nassimbwa said.
As police hunts the suspect, residents worry that Okot might come back because there are still people he had warned. But Richard Emuna, the OC station Bombo police, says: “We have already taken measures. It was just a case of a single soldier. It’s not the personality of everybody here.”