Who is Behind the Rampant Kidnaps in Uganda?

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Kidnap is taking a person hostage to obtain ransom. Nile Post delves into the world of kidnaps in Uganda and tries to find out what motivates them, what do they gain and how is security responding.

Kidnaps in Uganda have become a matter of national concern as the numbers rise. The crime is most pronounced in the country’s capital Kampala.

Uganda Police spokesperson Emilian Kayima says, “These kidnap cases are most common in Kampala.”


In just the month of May 2018, two girls have been kidnapped, one murdered and another escaped by a whisker.

In a bid to understand how these kidnappers strike, this reporter walked in the footsteps of victims at Namayiba Taxi Park where I had gone to fill in the blanks. I had not gone far when I was surrounded by shouting bus touts tugging at me to go with them though none of them knew what my destination was.

This was exactly how Shamsah Nakasujja disappeared at the beginning of 2018 near the taxi park.

On the day of her capture,   Shamsah Nakasujja was returning from her parents’ home in Mukono, heading southwest to Entebbe, Kibutika Village. The 19 year old had to make a taxi stop.”

Ali Kivumbi, Nakasujja’s brother-in-law says, “She called us saying there were no taxis heading to Zzana and we told her to ask around. That is the last time we had from her.”

Back Home in Kibutika , the expectant  family  were  bracing for a home coming,

Before her arrival, came a phone call that threw all in disarray.

“ AFTER 10 minutes, received a call from people saying they are kidnappers and wanted 10 million or else cut her head off”, Ali Kivumbi said.

The motivation is a common thread.

“The kidnappers are evil people that deprived us of a young soul. They are not worth talking about”, Lenny Muganwa , late Susan Magara’s grandfather.

“The kidnappers have no regrets, they aim at getting the money”, Dr. Paul Nyende, a psychologist at Makerere University.

Back home, the family was in a mad rush to raise the money demanded.

“I don’t have that much money, hang on, let me look for the money”,Kivumbi said.

Kivumbi, Nakasujja’s brother in law instead rushed to the Central Police Station in Kampala.

“A kidnap case was reported and the search started immediately with police tracking the phone the whole night”, Luke Owoyesigyire, KMP spokesperson says.

“First police tracking showed in Kisenyi, then later it showed Matugga,” Kivumbi said.

It is approximately a 20 kilometre drive from Mengo Kisenyi, a Kampala Suburb to Matugga off Bombo Road.

The family’s hopes of rescuing Nakasujja suddenly faltered when her captor’s phone went dead.

All trace of Nakasujja had vanished.

“I woke up and found myself in a room with the door wide open. All I could see were buses that go outside the country. I walked to the stage till I got the boda that took me home” Nakasujja said.

“The boda guy who brought her, said he had picked her from Namayiba bus terminal,” Kivumbi said.

Nakasujja shrinks into herself in horror as she struggles to compose herself for the interview.

“The report confirmed allegations that she was raped and intoxicated”, Owoyesigyire said.

“They found out that I was used.” Nakasujja said.

“They aim at getting cheap sex”,Nyende said.

No one quite recovers from such trauma early.

When I returned to the scene of Nakasujja’s kidnap at Namayiba bus terminal along Martin road, I could not help but wonder at how the trap was sprung on her.

From the Old Taxi Park where she was kidnapped to Namayiba bus terminal is a five kilometre stretch, approximately 11 minutes drive. Nakasujja was snatched right in the midst of one of the most populated areas of Kampala.

Could it be possible that the criminals are acting with the aid of watchful security?

The state denies this and Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda said a number of perpetuators have been arrested and investigations are advanced.

During the course of this investigation, we learned that a ring of 6 suspected kidnappers operating the taxi park area had been arrested.

Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango said, “Most of the people kidnapped are business people.”

One such business family that has endured the trauma of kidnap is the Magara family. Desperate to have their daughter back home, it is said the late Susan Magara’s family yielded to her kidnappers demands and paid a 720 million shillings ransom.

Susan Magara was nonetheless killed and her body dumped along Entebbe road.

The nature and motivations of the kidnappers remains deeply contested.

Nyende says, “Kidnappers do it for sexual reasons, others to revenge, while others target the poor for rituals.”

As of 23rd May 2018, police revealed that between January and April, 42 kidnaps had been conducted. Of those 20 have been confirmed as staged episodes - self kidnaps.

In 7 cases of the 42 recorded, the victims have been murdered. Eight victims have been rescued while seven kidnap victims whereabouts remain unknown to this day.

Cases of kidnap are clearly on the rise in Uganda.

In 2017, only 24 kidnaps were registered by police throughout the year, a figure that would double in just four months. Who is behind the kidnaps?

“They are serial killers. They are people with a mental problem and have no feelings of remorse”, Nyende said.

“20 days were enough for police to rescue her but looks like the kidnappers were much smarter than them”, Susan Magara’s grandfather Lenny Muganwa said.

“by the time of Susan’s kidnap , there was zero intelligence . Here our intelligence deals with the case as it comes” Freddie David Egesa, a private investigator said.

According to the penal code act 120 chapter 24 , kidnap falls under the offences against liberty. Section 243 subsection c,  a person who abducts someone with intent to procure ransom or benefit for the liberty of such a person from the danger of being murdered, is liable on conviction to suffer death.

Section 247 someone who kidnaps  a child under 14 years is liable to imprisonment of 10 years

Police records  to have arrested about 10 suspects on allegations of kidnap cases as of 23rd May. Security experts not impressed by the figures of jail birds

“Arresting  suspects  is not enough  . For all persons arrested on allegations of kidnap , let a team be set up to understand the set ups, follow up criminals ,so we don’t leave out another gang” Egesa said .

“Giving severe punishments will help curb the crime” Nyende said.

There is also a broader explanation for the current spree of kidnaps; the state of the economy.

“People are looking for money, they are poor and that is why they are engaging in Kidnap to ask for huge sums of money” Onyango said.

In this theater of crimes, poverty is not a lone star, other players share the never widening  field

“Families are to blame ourselves for not instilling values in children because religious leaders and security cannot reach all of us”, Nyende said.

“Government needs to create jobs to keep them busy”,Nyende said.

“There is a spate of crime efficiency syndrome. Ochola needs to revamp the force”.Egesa said.

As the public takes cover, police is on its toes.  But the question asked by many is , when is the end coming?

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