At least eight people have died in separate shootings in Kampala and elsewhere over the past 14 days, an average of one fatal gunshot victim every 48 hours, making May so far the year’s most dangerous month of gun violence.
Two of the victims perished in different locations yesterday, tipping the toll in fatal shootings since the May 2 killing of State Labour Minister Col (rtd) Charles Engola, allegedly by his bodyguard Pte Wilson Sabiiti, over the half a dozen scale.
Rogers Atuhaire, a guard attached to SGA Security Company, yesterday reportedly shot himself dead while on duty at premises on Buganda Road Zone in Nakasero II Parish, Kampala City.
Police have taken six people into custody to help with investigations into the death, with detectives hoping to decode the motive for the apparent suicide. On Wednesday night, armed attackers, whose identities remained unknown, killed Joy Chebet, a teacher at Atedeoi Primary School in Moroto District, and injured her husband and child.
The killers fled the scene. Mr Michael Longole, the spokesperson for Mount Moroto Police Region, confirmed the “murder” and said the two survivors were fighting for their lives at a hospital.
A day earlier, 27-year-old John Okudi, a guard attached to Saracen (U) Ltd, was shot dead allegedly by his colleague, Moses Okedi, following a disagreement in Senior Quarters in Amagoro CentralWard in Tororo Municipality.
They were deployed to guard the home of a businessman of Asian origin a day before the shooting. The alleged suspect was detained as investigations continue. In Kampala, Metropolitan Police Deputy Spokesman Luke Owoyesigyire said guard Atuhaire took his life yesterday for yet an unknown reason.
“David Okudu, a guard, who had arrived for the daytime shift, said he heard a sound of a gun being cocked. He assumed that his colleague was carrying out routine safety precautions. But when he went where his colleague was, he found Atuhaire lying in a pool of blood with a bullet wound visible on his throat. The bullet penetrated through his head,” Mr Owoyesigyire said.
Five of the past killings since the start of this month, and about half a dozen before then, have involved either members of state security forces or private guards, who are armed to protect citizens and the country, turning guns on others and in two reported cases on themselves.
The latest incidents add to a number of similar killings from February, raising uneasiness in a country where the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party has previously coursed to election victory by, among other gains, citing its restoration of human security to gain favour with the electorate.
One senior security source christened the spreading killing episodes as a “copy cut eff ect” they believe has been inspired by the death of a government minister in the hands of his guard, the first since President Museveni took power in 1986.
Mr Museveni, a retired general, has since described Col (rtd) Engola’s shooting by Pte Sabiiti as an “embarrassment” to the army which, under his command, has picked sustained plaudit for safeguarding the homeland and stabilising restive countries in the region.
These feats have injected soldiers in domestic law enforcement roles traditionally a preserve of police while simultaneously turning the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) into the country’s foreign policy spearhead through its peace-keeping missions outside Uganda.
However, the rise in gun violence incidents and fatalities has sparked concerns and criticism against state security agencies, with Mr Museveni, who is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, incidentally leading in asking some of the tough questions.
Following the May 12 shooting dead of moneylender Uttam Bhandari at his Rajja Chamber offices on Parliamentary Avenue in the city centre allegedly by Police Constable Ivan Wabwire, the President demanded answers for a string of apparent flaws in gun handling by security forces.
For instance, he questioned how a state gun is signed out from the armoury and why an armed person is allowed to access a building with a loaded weapon instead of depositing it at the entrance security check-point as required under the standard operating procedure.
He also wondered why, in the case of Bhandari’s killing, armed guards at nearby buildings and on the back of police patrol pick-ups on Parliamentary Avenue did not engage the policeman when exiting a building in which gunshots had been heard.
It also remained unclear whether recipients of the gun at Central Police Station in Kampala checked if the bullets were intact or examined the gun to ascertain whether a bullet or bullets were discharged from it, which would be noticeable if the muzzle was heated and smelling.
These and other unanswered queries, one law enforcement official said, have yanked the top police leadership to demand stricter enforcement of gun handling rules as officials consider possible revisions.
Mr Grace Matsiko, the chairman of the Uganda Private Security Association (TUPSA), yesterday confirmed that police were primed to announce remedial measures to fight rising gun violence. Mr Matsiko said members of the association that he heads are concerned about the shootings and they have discussed with the police the required actions to reverse the trend and restore sanity and confidence in the security sector.
“We have noted with concern the recent gun violence involving armed security personnel and we extend our condolences to all those that have lost their loved ones in the sad incidents,” he said, adding, “As a sector, we are cooperating with the security agencies including the police to get to the bottom of the shootings.”
Fatal shooting incidents have over the past fortnight been recorded in Kampala, Tororo and Arua, with state and private security actors accused of being the leading perpetrators.
On May 13, 2023, John Mujumbi, 25, a guard attached to Capital Guards and Patrol, was shot dead allegedly by his colleague Peter Ochoroi after an argument in their rented home in Konge, Makindye Division, Kampala City. On May 6, UPDF soldier allegedly shot one Rebecca Masika, 25, and injured Ivan Tugume, who are residents of Kamina landing site in Ndaiga Sub County, Kagadi District over a land dispute.
The soldier later fled and he is still on the run. In another incident, a Blue Water Services private security guard named Mathias Muhoozi allegedly shot Christian Itangishaka, 30, following an exchange of words in February this year. The suspect disappeared from the scene, but later turned himself in to the police, which is investigating him on allegations of murder.