Police has advised Ugandans to tighten their personal security and stop holding false hopes in the installed Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras as new wave of armed robberies hits the country.
In the last three weeks, gun wielding thugs riding on three motorcycles have attacked several mobile money operators including robbing a hardware shop in Kampala and its outskirts. At least seven people have been killed in these robberies and others left nursing bullet wounds.
While commissioning the Shs 500bn CCTV camera installation project last year, President Yoweri Museveni then said that the game was "finished" for the thugs and that fighting criminality is not as complex as fighting war. With the CCTV cameras, Museveni said it will be very easy to track down the criminals because, not only do the cameras record everything day and night, they can be rolled back to see which security officials failed on job.
"The problem of urban insecurity perpetuated by armed assassins riding boda bodas will be solved. What we needed were eyes, ears and a nose to sense them. It is what the cameras will do. Once we see these criminals, we shall get them,” said Museveni in October 2018.
Now a spate of armed robberies has led to a section of Ugandans to question the relevance of the cameras and why lots of taxpayers money was spent on them if urban criminality is on the rise in a country once considered as one of the safest in the world.
The latest armed robbery happened on Monday night when two mobile money operators were shot dead in Zzana along Entebbe road in Wakiso district. Witnesses said the thugs were moving on motorcycles wearing army like attire.
Victims of the Zzana incident were identified as Harriet Naluwadde, a survivor of a 2015 mobile money attack. Naluwadde was killed alongside her worker, Moreen Nakabubi.
The Zzana incident came a week after three Cheap General Hardware shop workers in Nansana municipality, Wakiso district, were killed in a broad day robbery by six thugs using three motorcycles and armed with four AK-47 rifles and SMGs. The thugs blocked Nansana-Hoima highway for over 30 minutes as they carried out the heist, killed three workers and shot at several nearby onlookers.
Fatalities of the Nansana robbery include; Jimmy Atikuru, the assistant manager of the Hardware shop and Frank Aruho while the third person who succumbed to bullet wounds on arrival at Mulago hospital was known as Amin Bugembe.
At least Shs 385m was robbed by the thugs and to date police are yet to get traces regarding the operational areas, hideout places or robbers’ intelligence network that seem to be very organised just like was the case during the 2014 and 2015 rampant mobile money robberies that cost lives of over 13 people.
A similar operation style was witnessed three weeks ago in Natete Church zone where armed robbers also moving on three motorcycles robbed a couple that had just closed its mobile money shop. Robbers fired random bullets to scare away nearby residents and in the process two people were killed including Rafael Walugembe, a Uganda Martyrs University Nkozi student.
Patrick Onyango, Kampala Metropolitan police spokesperson said the robbers’ modus operandi is now something investigators are trying to study with the view of unearthing the entire criminal gang and alert the public on possible precautions to take.
However, Onyango insists that individual focus should be on personal security that involves being cautious at the time of closing business, mode of moving money and avoiding carrying huge sums of money especially in late evening hours.
Police say people should not be fooled by installed Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras because their main purpose is helping in identifying and tracing suspects in criminal activities, but they cannot stop criminals from attacking.
“CCTV cameras and LDUs are for purposes of ensuring general security which is security for everybody. In this case, we emphasize personal security. You talk of cameras, yes they are there in all suburbs. Cameras help us in arresting suspects. Cameras are not there to stop thugs from attacking you. They are for investigation purposes,” said Onyango.
Onyango says the public should not rush to blame police, CCTV cameras and LDUs over the seemingly new wave of armed attacks because investigations to unearth a criminal racket take some time. He insists that detectives are now studying the operation style of thugs and will soon have them arrested.
“We have intelligence. Just on Tuesday, we arrested thugs and recovered guns hidden in a house. That shows you we are doing our job. These attackers are isolated incidents because they don’t happen every day,” added Onyango.
Not only Kampala has registered attacks of mobile money shops, hardware and retails shop, but other districts like Busia, Mbale, Masaka and Mbarara. In March, police spokesperson, Fred Enanga, released a list of 28 armed robbery incidents countrywide.
In a process, police has arrested 13 suspected robbers and killed five during operations. In Mbarara district, police tracked and cracked down a criminal gang operating in Ankole especially in areas of Rwizi and Greater Bushenyi regions in Nyakaizi cell, Kakoba division.
They had robbed of Shs 380m but police only recovered Shs 24m. Doreen Namuli was attacked on March 6 in Busia on her way home and her Shs 6m was taken.