Who is behind Masaka and Lwengo Machete Killings

Iron bar hitmen have continued to terrorize communities in greater Masaka region, where they have gruesomely murdered over 25 residents and left many injured in less than two months.

WHAT TIME THEY STRIKE

The killer gangs that have shaken the region often strike at about 7:00pm when people are indoors because of the 7:00pm-5:30am curfew. In some area, they have attacked residents between 9:00pm-11:00pm or between 2:00am-3:00am, when they force their way into people’s houses.

Majority of the victims have made alarms for help, but no one can dare move in the night. The gangs also waylay people walking alone back home. Many of the victims were either returning from a drinking spree or from buying items from faraway trading centres.

In other instances, however, the gangs have attacked homes by breaking doors and majority of their victims, according to Police, are vulnerable, mainly, the elderly and children. During the killings, which are almost similar, the thugs strike the victims’ heads using blunt objects.

In several cases, the attackers pulled the bodies from their houses and abandon them a short distance away. Where they kill somebody on the road, they drag the body to nearby banana or coffee plantations.

INCIDENTS

In the latest incident on Saturday night, the hitmen attacked an 80-year-old retired medical officer, Henry Kirembwe of Kyoko village in Kingo sub-county, Lwengo district. They kicked the door open, entered his house and hit him on the head using blunt objects suspected to be hammers or iron bars.

The killers then wrapped Kirembwe’s body in a blanket, then picked his moblie phone, they searched the contacts and identified his daughter’s number, Biira Kirembwe, who lives in Sweden. They called the number and when she picked, the assailants told her that they had killed her father and asked her to inform the neighbours to find the body.

Fred Ssebatta, a Local Council official, said to confirm the spine chilling message, the daughter telephoned an immediate neighbour, Stephen Ssebunya, who mobilised residents during the night and went to the home. Indeed, they found the old man dead. The same night, the assailants attacked Anna Maria Nakato, 80, of Kitenga village.

Nakato, the mother of the area Local Council chairperson, Andrew Kiggwe, was home alone at the time of the attack.

Kiggwe has been mobilising residents to be vigilant and guard against the criminals ever since they started terrorising communities. He said he had attended a several meetings with security officials and was telling everyone to be vigilant, not knowing his mother would also become a target. He said his mother’s murder could have been connected to a land dispute.

WHAT POLICE SAY

The Police said the killers broke Nakato’s door and killed her in bed. Muhammad Nsubuga, the the Masaka regional Police spokesperson, said a man identified as Kibedi reported to have confronted the assailants a few metres from the scene as he returned from a drinking spree in Nyendo at night.

He showed the Police a shirt, which he claimed to have belonged to one of the thugs, who fought him and that during the scuffle, Kibedi pulled the shirt and ran away with it. In a single night, the attackers raided six villagers in Nkoni parish, killing two people, including a 70-year-old woman, Joyce Nantale and her six-year-old granddaughter.

The victim’s son, Ssebuuma Kabarenge, who lives a few meters away, said the killers also raided his house at about 11:00pm after killing his mother and tried to kick the door open, demanding that he opens for them.

“They told me I was the only one remaining to die,” he said, adding that he made continuous alarm. Rachael Wizere, a neighbour, said she received a phone call from Ssebuuma, calling for help and woke up her husband, but before they could move out, they heard sounds of heavy boots in their compound. They made calls to the Police in Nkoni.

She said three Police officers later came on motorcycles to the scene. Another resident, Mike Luyijja, who had earlier responded to an alarm after Nakato was killed, said as he returned to his house after a while, he was confronted by four men standing by the roadside. He ran back to the scene and informed Police, who tried to pursue the assailants in vain.

THUGS BURN DOWN HOUSE

Meanwhile, in Nabyewanga village, the assailants torched the home of Fred Bukenya. He was inside the house with his wife, Resty Namagembe and their eight children. Bukenya said when the house went up in in flames, he feared to open the door, but the smoke was too much, almost suffocating his children.

The roof had started caving in when they rushed out. “I had nothing to do but save the lives of my children,” he said.

Bukenya lost everything in the house, including his motorcycle. His 16-year-old son, Tony Lubega, sustained burns as he rescued his siblings. Neighbours responded to the alarm and gathered, but one of them, Nelson Bujjingo, who was at the scene, heard an alarm coming from the direction of his home.

His children were appealing for help after a stranger introduced himself as their father and asked them to open the door. They refused but he started kicking the door. Bujjingo was accompanied by other residents to the scene, but did they did not find the attackers.

DRAMATIC’ ATTACKS

The assailants then attacked the home of one George Kamuwanda after kicking the door open. Kamuwanda, who had locked himself inside the bedroom, tried to make an alarm but the men, speaking from his sitting room, asked him not to dare, warning that they had come for him at whatever cost.

He said he continued making an alarm and the men instead sat in his sitting room and served themselves bread and kicked the flask after finding no tea. They later left. “Before leaving, they told me that they wanted to smoke their weed,” he said.

Another neighbour, Anifa Nabukenya, said she left food in the kitchen and locked herself inside the house. When she woke up the following morning, the food had been eaten by the suspected assailants.

A Police officer said they were puzzled that during the attacks, they would hear alarms from different directions, so they suspect the attackers also made alarms to divert security. He also said there could have been different groups carrying out attacks at the same time in different places because from information gathered, several attacks occurred almost at the same time.

WHAT CHAIRPERSONS SAY

Gerald Mawanda, the Nabyewanga LC1 chairperson, said he feared to come out of his house when he heard an alarm and the only weapon he had was making frantic phone calls to Police. Mawanda, however, said when the Police finally arrived with two patrols, they again heard an alarm from another direction. He added that they suspect a group of youth that usually move with bags in the evening to be behind the attacks.

Vincent Ssenkindu, another area leader, said this was an organised group that could be having links with locals. Rogers Nsubuga, the LC1 defence secretary for Kyabbogo village, said he had appeared on Bukedde TV the previous night, but his home was attacked the following day at about 8:30pm, when he was away.

He said the assailants kicked the door several times and broke the glass windows, but failed to access the house, where his wife and five children were having dinner. Earlier on Monday, August 23, assailants also raided Ssettaala village in Ssenya parish, where they killed three residents and injured several others.

Those killed included Sulaiman Kakooza, 57, a driver with Pembe Company, Francis Kizza Nswa and Henry Kiyimba, 35.

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Lukwago Joseph grew up in a newspaper family, and rumor has it that instead of playing the guitar in his infancy, his parents put a reporter’s notebook and a pen next to him shortly after he turned born eight years. Before becoming editor of UGANDANZ, Lukwago was a parliament news editor for WBS TV. He joined UGANDANZ in July 2018, A few months after the company launched. Lukwago also spent five years as a freelance reporter, where he covered reporting for the highest bidder, intelligence, foreign policy, and Ugandan police. Lukwago graduated from Makerere University in 2008 with a B.A. in Journalism and worked on his college newspaper.