Residents of greater Masaka region have established vigilante groups to police their areas amid attacks and fresh threats from unidentified thugs.
The move comes after unidentified people dropped fresh letters threatening to raid homes in Nyendo-Ssenyange division, Kimanya in Masaka, Kingo in Lwengo and Buyoga in Bukomansimbi districts.
In one of the anonymous letters dropped on Sunday night in Ssenyange village in Nyendo-Ssenyange division, the group specifically threatened to attack businessman Moses Kaliisa of Muto General Hardware. They say they want the businessman to tell them where he gets from all the money he has.
Kaliisa has reported the matter to police and the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF), which have deployed heavily in the area.
According to Kaliisa, he is living in fear because of the threat of attack from the thugs. In Lwengo, Bukomansimbi and Masaka district, residents have formed vigilante groups to reinforce security agencies hunting for the thugs.
Francis Mawanda, the chairman Kyabakuza trading center along Masaka-Mbarara highway, says they have unanimously passed resolutions with their Lwengo and Masaka counterparts to form vigilante groups to police their communities. Mawanda says they have also agreed to fundraise money to facilitate the vigilante groups.
He explains that residents have agreed to contribute Shs 2,000 each while those with businesses will contribute Shs 5,000 each month towards the facilitation of the vigilante groups.
Edward Ssentamu, a resident of Mwaaro village, says there is no single security officer in their village. Ssentamu is excited by the establishment of vigilant groups to reinforce police in the area. He explains that the area is home to abandoned coffee factories, which are being used by the thugs.
Kaliba Ssempijja, a resident of Kkingo, says the thugs have caused a lot of discomfort in the community. Ssempijja says the deployment of soldiers has disrupted their work as they end up rounding up everybody.
Mathias Mpuuga, the Masaka municipality Member of Parliament wants government to explain the cause of insecurity in the region. He says the decision by residents to mobilise funds to fund vigilant groups is an indictment on government security agencies.
“They are very concerned with the laxity of security agencies in securing them and the decision to mobilise money themselves is an indictment of the bigger national security system. Because these are taxpayers and it seems they are resigned on the government’s ability to offer them security, which indicts the nature of the security in this area and the country in general. It does seem other LCs have a very serious relationship gaps and are not able to engender a general decision as an LC. So I have advised them to mobolise themselves and elect an interim committee that can guide decision-making and screening of citizens whenever they are needed to do so.”, said Mpuuga.
But Latif Zaake, the Southern regional police commander says police is still in charge. He says ever since the attacks last month, they have not had any serious attack this month.
“We are on top of the situation, and I also want to warn that there are some of them who are taking advantage of the prevailing situation to continuously keep throwing these papers around the various towns. And what intelligence are telling us, is that, some of them are doing that [dropping papers] because they want full security in their areas. What we can tell them is that we’re there. We are having foot patrols, joint motorised patrols and also our intelligence is on the ground”, said Zaake.
Although police claimed to have arrested 89 suspects in connection to the attacks, no one has been produced in court. Zaake says they are still screening the suspects.