The eerie feeling of the murders of women – aged between 18 and 35 – in Wakiso district has left residents shaken and, looking over their shoulders, with little hope of an end to the killings.
The discoveries of the dead played out like a scene in a horror movie. At the start of June, a woman’s body, only identified as Harriet by neighbors, was found in a garden next to her home in Panaroma zone, Nkumba II in Entebbe municipality.
A week later, a body of another woman, Faith Komugisha, a scrap dealer, was found at a brick-making pit in the next village. By mid-August, at least 11 bodies of women had been discovered in the municipalities of Entebbe and Nansana.
At the start of this month, a total of 21 women had been reported murdered. The deaths bore striking resemblances: sticks stuck in the victim’s private parts and, according to residents, they appeared to have been raped before being murdered.
“Our life has been ruined,” said Vikito Oyesige, who has lived at Abaita Ababiri, where the body of one of the victims was found.
“I have lived in Entebbe since 1993. I had never seen such murders.”
“Cruel, inhumane, unimaginable!” are some of the words residents used to describe the murders. Eighteen-year-old Norah Wanyama’s body was found in a banana plantation on July 21 in Nkumba Central with a stick pushed into her private parts through to her throat.
“What did such a young girl do to deserve such?” Oyesiga said of the S5 student at Entebbe Air Force SS.
Elizabeth Kiruluta Nalubega, the chairperson of Kitinda village, Kituruma, said it was hard to imagine a human being can do such a thing to another.
“It must be the youths who spend all the time smoking marijuana around here,” Nalubega said, trying to explain the deaths like many other residents have done but without a definitive answer.
Last week, the minister of Internal Affairs, Gen Jeje Odongo, told parliament that a government investigation linked the murders to ritual sacrifice – an explanation roundly dismissed by many MPs.
The Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura has heaped blame squarely on domestic violence. He cited the example of Maria Nabiranda, whose body was dumped in Nyanama, a Kampala suburb along Entebbe highway.
He said the prime suspect, Charles Kato, who is now in custody, was the deceased’s lover and had a misunderstanding with Nabiranda over land.
It is hard to know who is right. But such contradicting statements from top security officers – supposed to protect people – have created more confusion.
Timothy Kakembo, a neighbour to one of the murder victims in Kasenyi, Entebbe, told us: “There is a rich man called Ivan from Kasenyi – they are saying he’s the one who is killing the girls in ritual murders. I don’t believe so – I think there is something more than that.”
Ismah Kyeza, a boda boda rider, said he overheard some people saying it could be a rebel grouping trying to emerge by instilling fear among the people.
Hitherto teeming with nightlife, now the reality is like a curfew has been imposed on Entebbe and Nansana. Residents have been advised to stay indoors when it clocks 10pm.
“People are locking themselves in their houses by 10pm. Before [the murders], 5am would find most people out going about their work. Not anymore. People move out at 6am,” said Kakembo.
There is heavy police presence. The force’s helicopters hover above the villages where most murders have taken place. Tens of villagers have been rounded up – some have since been released while others have been charged in court.
For some people, it is hard to speak to a journalist or stranger about the murders due to fear of arrest. In groups of four or five people, residents whisper to each other.
About what could be happening in their community – perhaps consoling themselves well aware another murder could happen anytime.
For the relatives of the already murdered women, they will continue to relive the graphic scenes over and over again in their minds. Heart-breaking as it may be, many may never come to know who and what killed their beloved ones.