Panic in Masaka as thugs attack, drop anonymous letters

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Tension is high in Greater Masaka region because of anonymous letters dropped by thugs threatening to attack residents any time this week.

Greater Masaka is comprised of Lwengo, Rakai, Kalungu, Bukomansimbi and Masaka districts. In the anonymous letters, the thugs have asked residents to prepare enough cash and more gadgets for them.

The thugs have asked impoverished residents to leave at least Shs 20,000 at their doorsteps while the wealthy residents have been asked to keep more money with them, which they must handover once the thugs strike anytime starting this week.

The anonymous letters have triggered panic among residents. Father John Baptist Kintu, the Kyabakuza parish priest, says they are spending sleepless nights for fear of fresh attacks. Already, last week the thugs struck, robbed and injured over six people in Kyabakuza A, Kyabakuza B and Kyabakuza trading centre.

Fr Kintu wants President Yoweri Museveni to deploy military police to hunt down the thugs.

“Civilians cannot manage, and it would seem they [thugs] are many. They first give warnings. They have already made an attack at Serinya, Buyoga parish. They have robbed at Kyabakuza trading and the nearby homes. And they already gave warnings to Kabale-Kisoso, a neighbouring village and it is a worrying situation. First of all, they gave a warning that the poorest should at least put at their door at least Shs 20,000. For the wealthy they want more. That is threatening. It is a big threat”, said Fr Kintu.

Streets in Masaka town. Residents now return home before 7pm in fear of being attacked

Due to the warning letters, most residents return home as early as 7pm for fear of being attacked by the thugs. Joseph Ssenzoga, the Town Yard Ward defense secretary in Masaka, says the failure by police to apprehend those attacking residents means government has failed to protect its citizens and their property.

Joseph Ssekasamba, the Masaka deputy resident district commissioner, says they have confiscated the anonymous letters as part of the investigations. According to Ssekansamba, police are holding six key suspects in connection to the current wave of insecurity.

“I want to assure them [thugs] that their time is running out. We want to assure everybody that their time is running out because we have started getting leads on how to normalise the situation and even get the thugs where they are. Because when you look at the pattern, when they come and attack, ask you for money when you don’t have they beat you. And it seems they already have prior information that for you are a coffee seller. You sold your coffee during the day, so you must be having Shs 2 million. So you produce Shs 2 million or else you are [stabbed]. That means they have the local agents who have been taking that information”, he said.

According to police, at least 20 people have been attacked and hacked by thugs since January this year. Three people have so far lost their lives in the attacks. The latest attack occurred on Friday last week in Kyabakuza trading center in Masaka municipality where thugs raided ten homes armed with machetes, axes and guns.

They hacked eight people injuring them critically and also raped two women before making off with their property. The injured include Prossy Namugerwa, Dorothy Nassozi, Manisuli Kizito, Sadati Namugera and Malic Ntale.

The injured are admitted at Masaka regional referral hospital where they were rushed for treatment. The identities of the rape victims are withheld since they are victims of sexual violence.  Prossy Namugerwa, one of the attack victims, says the thugs stormed their homes at around 1am last Saturday morning.

According to Namugerwa, the thugs hit her door with a strong object to gain access into their house. She explains that three thugs entered the home and started demanding for money. Namugerwa says she pleaded with the thugs not to kill her, saying she didn’t have any money on her.

According to Namugerwa, the thugs shot back, saying it was a ‘sin’ not to have money.  They hacked her on the head using a machete. Police is yet to arrest any suspect in connection to the attack despite the fact that Kyabakuza A to B where the attack took place, is just a few meters from a police post.

On March 28, President Museveni grilled Latif Zaake, the Greater Masaka regional police commander over police failure to resolve insecurity in the region. He ordered police to deploy in the affected areas and arrest the masterminds of the insecurity.

The Inspector General of Police, Edward Kale Kayihura has deployed the Flying Squad to boost the army and police to hunt for the thugs.

©Alleastafrica and The Observer