A rise in the spate of murders of prominent people in the country has been exacerbated by the easy access to cheap guns, an intelligence source has said.
The source told The Observer this week that preliminary investigations into some of the murders found that guns are hired for between Shs 200,000 to Shs 500,000 from rogue elements within private security companies and national security forces like the police and army.
“This [Shs 200,000 to Shs 500,000] is a lot of money for someone who earns about 150,000 a month,” the source said.
Since many private security company workers are supposed to deposit their guns at their workplace when off duty, they normally hire out the guns during working hours. In other cases, security guards report their guns “stolen” yet in actual fact they hired them out.
Our source said on average three cases of stolen guns are reported to police every month by private security firms. Many of these guns, the source said, are never recovered and sometimes end up being used in criminal activities.
In one recent incident, police reportedly arrested a security guard who had been hired at Shs 500,000 to kill. According to the source, there are also genuine cases of gun thefts from security operatives.
Two guns were stolen in February when two police guards, Abdallah Karim Tenywa and Muzamiru Babale, deployed at the residence of Justice Faith Mwondha in Bugiri, were killed.
In the Luweero incident last week where a police officer Geoffrey Baala was hacked to death, the suspects tried unsuccessfully to gain access to the armory. We have also been told that other guns used in criminal activity are smuggled into the country from eastern DR Congo and South Sudan, where there is no law and order.
These are available to hire for a song. Polly Namaye, the deputy police spokesperson, told The Observer on April 2 that police had issued new guidelines regulating the handling of firearms within private security firms.
According to the new guidelines, all guns in the hands of private security companies must be marked or labeled while armouries of security companies will be supervised by police and all firearms submitted to the district police commander, to know the active and non-active guns.
Basil Mugisha, the commissioner of police in charge of private security, told The Observer yesterday that the various conflicts within the region had made it possible for guns to be widely available.
“We had the conflict in Karamoja, the LRA war, the ADF conflict. There are so many guns floating around,” Mugisha said.
But Mugisha said that incidents of gun hiring were not rampant within security firms because their rifles are not automatic (and therefore not preferred by many criminals].
“You have heard of security guards running way [in cases of robbery] and leaving their rifles behind. They know their [rifles] don’t have value,” Mugisha said.
Our source said the most preferred weapon for murder is the AK-47, which is a preserve for national security forces like the police and the army. Unlike most guns used by private security firms, the AK 47 is an automatic rifle.
Police confirmed that an AK-47 was used in the murder of Joan Kagezi, an acting assistant director of public prosecutions, on March 30, and Muslim clerics late last year.
Our source said that rogue elements within the national security forces are either participating in the murders or hire out their guns. For instance, some officers attached to police’s flying squad have been implicated in acts of armed robbery or murder.
Two of them, Deogratius Ojaya and Muhammed Kiwana, were killed in October last year by a businessman in Ndeeba. The businessman claimed the two were plotting to kill him. Our source said Kiwana was a known robber who the public had complained about.
Mugisha told us he could not rule out the possibility of people within the national security forces hiring out their guns.
“You know human beings: you cannot predict their behaviour,” Mugisha said.
Ordinarily, our source said, there are stringent mechanisms laid for individuals attached to the police and the army to adhere to while in possession of a firearm. First, they have to account for any bullet discharged.
Secondly, they are not supposed to expose their weapons in public, unless they are in uniform. Individuals who privately own guns (pistols) are also expected to regularly make status reports about their weapons.
They can, without notice, be called upon at anytime to produce their weapons. The availability of guns for hire, cheaply, is proving to be a headache for police and other security organisations, especially at a time when murders of prominent personalities appear to be on the rise and threats of a terrorist attack heightened.
Fred Enanga, the police spokesperson, says they are aware of the problem (of so many guns) and are working on it.
“We have recovered some stolen guns and recently we arrested a car dealer who had a stolen gun,” Enanga told The Observer yesterday. He said Uganda is working closely with security agencies in DR Congo and South Sudan to curb the smuggling of weapons across borders of the three countries.
Source : The Observer