Some 28 gruesome and unsolved murders of women have taken place in Uganda’s Wakiso district, where Entebbe International Airport and State House are located, over the past two months.
Fear is beginning to grip the district, and some women are reported to be locking themselves in by 6pm.
With the mystery of who is killing the women and dumping them by the roadside deepening, and frustration mounting at the failure of the security agencies to stop the crimes, the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga asked the security ministers to explain to the House what the hell is going on.
There is speculation that rogue security officers are complicit in the killings, and also that they are possibly being done for ritual purposes by businessmen.
However, there is a dangerous sexism in that view. The response from the government would not be the same if it had been 28 men killed.
Many years ago in the US, Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards echoed the mindset that has allowed the Entebbe killings to go on unchecked for two months.
Joking to reporters about how he would really have to do something awful to lose the election, Edwards said, “The only way I can lose this election is if I’m caught in bed with either a dead girl or a live boy.”
Some people understood Edwards to mean that having sex with a girl and murdering her thereafter, wasn’t as bad as having a gay affair with a boy, but who didn’t wind up dead. They were, rightly, outraged.
The same attitude is playing out in Entebbe. Killing 28 men would be considered a serious threat to national security. The killers could either be an emerging rebel group that posed a threat to the power of President Yoweri Museveni, or a vicious criminal gang that might undermine law and order.
Wakiso would now be crawling with special military forces, all the intelligence services, and the head of state would have gone on national TV to warn the criminal elements. But women being killed?
Well, maybe they are crimes of passion. Who knows, maybe the women are prostitutes, and they stole their clients’ wallets.
Since elections last year, the government easily has had more policemen camped outside the fence of opposition politician Kizza Besigye’s home, Museveni’s main political pain-in-the-neck, than it has working on the Wakiso murders.
That said, those with a sense of history in Uganda know better. Despite its history of deadly politics, violent crime in Uganda is generally low in normal circumstances.
Early in the year, Kampala’s suburbs were swept by a wave of violent break-ins. The criminals would even send ahead notice to the residents that they were coming. The wiser residents would reportedly leave a wad of money and other valuables on their doorsteps, and if the thieves were satisfied, they would leave without breaking in for more.
For that to happen, though, it always requires a high level of potentially destabilising discontent within the security agencies, or rivalry between them, with either side colluding with criminals or carrying out crimes to make the other look incompetent.
Uganda is still very much a security state. You don’t get to kill that many women near Entebbe, unless some powerful people have deliberately turned a blind eye. The only question is why?
Charles Onyango-Obbo is publisher of data visualiser Africapaedia and Rogue Chiefs. [email protected]