Evidence tying Charles Olim aka Sipapa to an organized criminal gang that has broken into many apartments in Kampala and pins men in army uniform to gang-related violent robberies continues to emerge days after the larger-than-life socialite was arrested and remanded to prison for stealing about Shs 1.6 billion from a South Sudanese national.
Interviewed about the emerging evidence tying UPDF soldiers and police servicemen to robberies that have gripped the country in the recent past, UPDF spokesman Brigadier General Felix Kulayigye said, “We are going to put all commanders to task to explain why this [robbery] is happening. The commanders of these sub-units have been called for questioning.”
He said UPDF and Local Defence Unit (LDU) soldiers involved in armed robberies will be jailed.
“We have arrested a number of them and they are going for trial. We have six officers under custody. We are going to improve the question of supervision of the command at all army barracks to stop their officers from participating in criminality,” he said.
“We are not going to reprimand any of the arrested officers but jail them because for us we don’t handle them with gloves. Those are criminals. Once they have been tried, convicted, and sentenced, they will serve the sentence in military detention, Kitalya prison, or any other detention facility depending on where the Court Martial will send them,” he told The Observer.
Interviewed in the immediate aftermath of the arrest of Sipapa last week, retired Lt. Gen Proscovia Nalweyiso, a senior presidential advisor on Security, vowed to nail down all criminal gangsters riding on their connection with the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) and President Yoweri Museveni to steal and bully their way around.
Nalweyiso spoke after the arrest and remanding of Sipapa. Sipapa was arrested last week by operatives from the Directorate of Crime Intelligence over the alleged break-in at Jacob Arok’s (a South Sudan national) home in Kawuku-Bunga on August 28, 2022. He allegedly stole about $429000(Shs 1.6 billion), four iPhones, Apple laptops, a Dell laptop, gold jewelry, a 65-inch Samsung television, and other valuable items.
Sipapa and his wife Shamilah Nakiyimba were charged with aggravated robbery contrary to sections 285 and 286 of the Penal Code Act. In a recorded video clip, Gen Nalweyiso said she followed Sipapa for a long time and ordered the withdrawal of the socialite’s security detail.
“I don’t think theft charges against him are false. I have been following him and the police and Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) are aware of it. He is one of the people leading groups of thugs who invade apartments and rob people of their laptops, phones, money, cars, and other belongings. I have been fighting with police over him,” she said.
Gen Nalweyiso said some people use meet-ups and photo opportunities with high-profile people to create a public impression that they are well connected. She said Sipapa projected an image of someone connected to the Special Forces Command (SFC), a force mandated to protect the president and other high-profile persons.
“I urge the police and other concerned forces to hunt down such criminals,” she said.
She also warned the driver of an army green Land Cruiser.
“There is an army green numberless Land Cruiser V8 which is recklessly driven around Kampala City. It has a long wire, which resembles a signal wire. Its hind number plate has President Yoweri Museveni’s picture. He drives recklessly, but I want to warn him. Ugandans are good people, let him stop that hooliganism or be arrested,” she warned.
Lt. Gen Nalweyiso, who retired from the army last month (August), said she has embarked on fighting criminal gangs terrorizing people in Uganda. She said Sipapa has been terrorizing people for a very long time and vowed to crack down on all people behaving like Sipapa. Police has said a team of its forensic experts have linked Sipapa’s fingerprints to 12 other crime scenes around the Kampala Metropolitan Area.
CASES OF AGGRAVATED ROBBERY
Since May this year, the country has witnessed a spate of armed robberies in Kampala, Mukono, Wakiso, Kyengera, Nsangi, Buloba, Kakerenge, Kalule, and other parts of the country where gunmen waylaid and robbed people of all their belongings.
In April 2022, thugs in army uniforms put up roadblocks around Lubowa on Ndejje-Lubugumu road, Kira-Kasangati road, Nakawuka-Kasanje road, Kayunga-Ssenge-Kawa road, and Wakiso-Matugga road and robbed people clean.
According to a story published by this paper on July 25, 2022, a victim of the illegal roadblock, only identified as Farouk, said he ran into the ambush after dropping off a woman in Maya off Kampala-Masaka highway. The assailants had mounted a roadblock around Maya off the highway. The gunmen beat and robbed travelers of their belongings. The suspects were allegedly driving a Toyota Hiace, commonly known as a drone, registration number UG 0301/G.
Police spokesperson Fred Enanga later told this paper that a driver of motor vehicle UG 0301/G attached to the ministry of Internal Affairs and a civilian were arrested and a search was mounted to arrest the other criminals. On June 24, 2022, three robbers armed with an AK47 attacked Spice Supermarket located in Mulago cell, Ntawo ward in Mukono municipality. They shot at a cashier and took off with an unknown amount of money.
On July 8, 2022, the former acting Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the eastern district of Bukwo, Charles Robert Ogwang, was robbed, shot 26 times, and his car set ablaze at Kiryowa village along Bombo road.
On July 24, machete-wielding men attacked two police constables, killed one, and injured another, before taking off with their guns. The incident happened at Kiwumpa on the Kampala – Gulu highway. The officers were reportedly on duty at the Kiwumpa roadblock.
In July, armed thugs attacked City Joy supermarket in Mutungo and made off with the money. The supermarket has been robbed three times in five years. On August 9, 2022, gunmen attacked Flower Super Shoppers supermarket and killed a security guard, and walked away with lots of cash and a gun.
According to the police’s Annual Crime Report 2021, 5,275 cases of robbery were reported compared to 5,302 cases reported in 2020, showing a 0.5 per cent decrease. Cases of robbery were 3,319, while cases of aggravated robbery were 1,956 compared to 1,844 cases reported in 2020, marking a six per cent increase.
The report showed that a total of 436 cases of robbery of cash were registered in 2021 compared to 364 cases reported in 2020, marking a 19.7 per cent increase. Cases of robbery were high in Kampala Metropolitan (KMP) North (676 cases), followed by Rwizi (423 cases), KMP South (380 cases), and KMP East (350 cases).
According to Uganda Radio Network (URN), a senior security officer who is also one of the commanders of the violent crimes crack unit, two police officers were arrested in June in the Kampala Metropolitan South region on suspicion of being handlers of a wanted robber, Juma Otto alias Abdulaziz Nsubuga alias Farouq Tomusange.
Otto was killed by crime intelligence operatives along Entebbe road nearly three months ago. He had been on the police wanted list since 2020. Otto was put on the wanted list after investigations found that he masterminded the robbery of Shs 300 million from a Somali national, Mohammad Ahmed at the Hotel Equatoria. Otto never had any permanent residence; he had no mobile phone and he had no known family.
“But for the two years we were searching for him, his mobile phones were our very own police officers. The moment we arrested them, they led us to his newest rented house in Kyeyagalire zone and we killed him on the spot,” the officer told URN.
Security has also noticed that some of the illegal roadblocks mounted at night have been manned by soldiers. Police spokesperson Fred Enanga cites an example of six rogue LDU soldiers who were apprehended last week after they staged an armed robbery at Kyoga swamp, Namusera parish, Wakiso sub-county in Wakiso district.
Enanga identified the soldiers as Said Ayume, Matthew Aguma, Irikar Adiya, Siraje Luyima, Julius Oroboro and Steven Tambara. These allegedly stopped businessman George Turahabwa who they robbed of an unspecified amount of money and mobile phones. These soldiers were arrested with the help of sniffer dogs that tracked them to their military detachment at Namusera.
The 13 robberies that happened between May and July are linked to two soldiers who reportedly hired out their guns to criminals. Violent crime investigators have since established that even the gun that was stolen from a private security company was not tied to any of the bullet cartridges collected from the robbery scenes.
The criminal gang in Mukono was led by Kennedy who allegedly fled the country as police hunted down the entire group. “All leads show the guns belonged to soldiers but we haven’t recovered any of them,” a security commander said.
Following the Mukono robberies that led to the arrest of several suspects including a businessman Zziwa who deals in electronics at one of the buildings opposite Usafi market, two police officers allegedly offered Shs 8 million to secure his release.
“They brought Shs 8 million for us to release this Zziwa,” a senior security officer said. “We decided to arrest them. This shows you that some of our officers are part and parcel of these gangs. Imagine a police officer bringing money to secure the release of a criminal,” a source told URN.
The northern bypass thugs that threw bricks and pavers at drivers to rob them as well machete attacks in Namungoona, Bulenga –Kikaaya, Nansana, and Kyengera were allegedly coordinated by serving and retired soldiers or police officers.