By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma
[Dip. Law (First Class) – LDC; Cert. PELD – NALI-K; LLB (Hons) – Mak; PG Cert. Oil & Gas – Mak]
Kampala has hitherto been well known for being a safe and secure city, with hardly pronounced incidents of thefts, robberies, and other major crimes, in spite of being in a highly volatile region. Lately, however, this good reputation is fast phasing out, with increased incidents of thefts, muggings, and murders. I have personally experienced and witnessed some attempted thefts, and also heard several stories of them from very reliable sources, while reports of robberies and murders are commonplace in the media lately.
For example, once I was in a taxi on Kampala road, at City Square, when I saw a dirty looking man unsuccessfully try to snatch some items from a passenger in another taxi, ahead of mine. Then, one evening I was smartly dressed in a suit, carrying my laptop bag containing a laptop, books, and other valuable items, walking in Kikuubo, a busy Kampala street, when I was besieged by two men, one of whom was drunk and held the upper part of my arms from behind, speaking to me unintelligible things about KCCA, while the other searched my court pockets. When I realized their trick, I fought them off, and they run away, without stealing anything from me. Then, a few meters ahead, I saw a man snatch a bag from a lady, and attempt to run away with it, but was caught by another man, who took away the bag from the thief, and returned it to the lady. Interestingly, in all these scenarios, the thieves seemed unbothered by the likely consequences of their criminal acts, like arrest, as they just lingered around, without anybody else caring much about them. In the past, in such incidences, alarms would blaze, and hot pursuit would ensue, to punish the suspect.
While discussing this matter of insecurity in Kampala on Facebook, my friend, Mr Manzi Solomon, argued that I was, ‘…a near-victim of escalating insecurity in an over-crowded, unequal city with too few haves, and too many indigent [and] wretched have-nots … Middle-class proletariats like you become the buffer zone!’ In other words, that high income inequality has caused poverty, such that the poor end up preying on the rich for survival. Mr Manzi is right. Every possible measure should be taken to ensure equitable distribution of resources among all people in different socio-economic classes. One absolutely necessary measure is regime change, since changing those in charge of allocating public resources and devising public policies, will facilitate and ultimately translate into income re-distribution among the people of Uganda.
Otherwise, Kampala, once so secure that it was common to find down-town traders carrying large sums of money in their hands or polythene bags, to a nearby bank, amidst heavy traffic and congestion, is slipping into horrible insecurity (and certainly social anarchy) as is the case in some places like nearby Nairobi city in Kenya, where one would be lucky to just walk or drive through town wearing, for instance, beautiful jewelry or expensive watches. I am already missing that amazing Kampala. The one of today scares me very much. It is very unfortunate that our beloved city is becoming too insecure and intimidating to live in.
I therefore, call upon our gallant police, intelligence, and other security agencies, to scale up round-the-clock security patrols and surveillance in order to curb this absurd trend. As a country, we should seriously equip our security apparatus with the requisite manpower and equipment, necessary to guarantee the safety and security of people and their properties. Plus, I call upon the people of Kampala, and Uganda at large, to revive their vigilance against such inconveniences as theft. A few years ago, it was well known that if a person is nabbed stealing in Kampala, and in most other surrounding areas, he or she (usually hes) would be thoroughly beaten and burnt to death with car tires. Consequently, security was very high. I am tempted to endorse and encourage the re-introduction of such radical measures. Much as I am a lawyer, well knowing the legal niceties of presumption of innocence and the like, when the security of my person and property is out rightly impaired, undermined and negated, then such legal niceties inevitably count for so little.