Police in Mbale are hunting for a group of suspected arsonists accused of setting over 30 grass-thatched huts ablaze in Mbale district.
The huts believed to be for ruling party National Resistance Movement supporters are found in Muvuule, Kiduda and Bubilabi cells in Namatala Ward in Industrial division in Mbale Municipality.
The arsonists are said to have struck at around 11:45pm on Wednesday night injuring over 20 people in the process. The fire also destroyed household property worth millions of shillings. Margret Akello, one of the fire victims, says the arsonists first set six huts ablaze at Namatala trading center near Wafula Estate before they burnt eight others in Muvuule cell.
Hamza Naduli, one of the fire victims nursing injuries at Mbale hospital, suspects and believes that they were attacked by opposition activists to avenge the continued police harassment and detention of Dr Kizza Besigye, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) presidential candidate. Besigye has been put under house arrest since last Friday and arrested four times in the last 10 days.
“Ever since the presidential results were declared by Electoral Commission we [NRM supporters], have been under threat of attack from P10 [FDC election mobilisation task force] in Namatala,” he said.
Francis Chemusto, the new Elgon Regional Police Commander who rushed to the scene has condemned the attacks describing it as a public nuisance that must be dealt with accordingly.
Chemusto said that they have embarked on comprehensive investigations to get to the bottom of the matter despite the fact that accusing fingers are being pointed towards P10 activists. Peter Mugabi, the Mbale District Commander, said that no suspect has been arrested in connection with the incident.
“Our investigation will still carry on until we feel we have reached to a level to execute arrests of the suspects who might be still at large as of now but most importantly is that we have the clue of who they are and I promise people of Mbale that the situation is under control and the culprits will soon be rounded up,” he said.
Zakariah Lokiringa, the Muvule Cell LC I chairperson appealed to government agencies to come to their rescue before more damage is made. Pamela Watuwa Mbale Deputy Resident District Commissioner, RDC, asked the aggrieved families to keep calm and allow the security agencies handle the matter.
She made the appeal after a section of those affected people vowed to revenge on those they suspect to have committed the crime. The incident has left more than 125 people homeless.