As police grapple for answers to a wave of murders targeting women in Entebbe and Nansana townships, eyes are being cast wider to another wave of murders that has gone unexplained.
At a special sitting of parliament last Thursday for the government to offer an explanation on the killings that have so far claimed at least 20 women, the Ministry of Internal Affairs was at pains to give answers to anxious members of parliament.
The ability of the police force to detect and prevent crime or to satisfactorily investigate murders in particular, have repeatedly come into question. In all of the murders, the police are yet to secure a single conviction out of hundreds of people they usually round up after the crime.
According to the ministerial statement presented during the special sitting, in the past four months, some 21 women have been killed, most by strangling, some after being raped, in areas surrounding Entebbe. The town and its precincts are by far the most guarded and therefore should be most secure in Uganda owing to its status as the only international gateway into the country and hosts State House, the president’s residence.
The ministry reported 44 suspects had been apprehended, half of whom had already been arraigned in court. Yet the legislators were hardly taken by the purported motives behind the killings; mainly ritual sacrifice and devil worship. This, in effect, cast doubt on the quality and culpability of people being held over the murders.
“In ritual murders, perpetuators do not rape women or insert sticks in their private parts. They want young children and girls, who have no body piercings,” said Margaret Komuhangi, the Woman MP for Nakasongola District.
Nabbilah Naggayi, the Woman MP for Kampala District, said; “witchcraft is synonymous with backward societies. For us to see an official [government] document citing witchcraft says a lot about the state of affairs in our country,” he added.
The scepticism of the legislators is reinforced by a recent verdict over a spate of murders involving Muslim clerics that rocked the country between 2012 and 2015.
Last month, the International Crimes Division of the High Court acquitted all 14 suspects presented to it on charges of murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to murder five Muslim leaders. The panel of three judges headed by Justice Ezekiel Muhanguzi had concluded they were not the real people who had actually killed the Muslim clerics.
“We are satisfied and find and hold that no single prosecution witness identified either the assailants or recovered the killer weapon at the time and at the scene of the crime,” reads in part the panel’s findings.
As the first case to go to trial out of a number of murderous waves, a conviction would have provided the public insights behind these rampant and well-orchestrated killings.
As such, the judgement, according to some lawyers, was an indictment firstly on the investigative capabilities of the police as well as the competences of the prosecution.
“That the suspects declined to defend themselves shows you how prosecution failed miserably in presenting its case. So the ruling, in my opinion, can be seen as an indictment of the process of investigations, the process of prosecution and the quality of the prosecutors.
“It also further exposed how police does its work since prosecutors are not investigators and so have to rely on Police to gather all relevant evidence. Their ways are an endless subject of public scrutiny and criticism.” said Nicholas Opiyo, a lawyer.