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UGANDA: Kidnap for ransom haven around Kampala named, victims still missing

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Mariam Nankubuge is still missing

Kawempe turns into kidnappers’ haven

KAMPALA (THE OBSERVER) – Kidnap-for-ransom is a growing vice in Kampala and the Kawempe division has been hit particularly hard hit in recent weeks.

Four-year-old Mariam Nankubuge, daughter of Muhammad Seruwooza and Hasfah Nakimbugwe of Katoogo zone in Bwaise, is one of four children grabbed in February. Nankubuge went missing on February 11. Her mother says the child was taken from their compound after the kidnapper persuaded Nankubuge’s elder sister to leave her alone with him, and sent her to buy ice cream.

“When Shadia returned from the shop, she found Nankubuge missing and called me. We started looking for her up to now,” she said this week.

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“We have reported to different police stations but they have no clues. We have not received any call or message or letter from any kidnapper…,” she said.

Meanwhile, parents of the three other children, who were recovered after paying significant ransoms, are still coming to terms with the trauma.

Usher Bukenya of Wamala in Nabweru says his four-year-old Ashely Bukenya was kidnapped on February 2.

“I also saw the kidnapper at 8am sitting near my gate when I was leaving for work but took it lightly. When I returned home at 1pm, I found the same man near my gate and closed it tightly. However, the small gate was left open and that is where my child passed,” he said.

Bukenya said they realized Ashely was missing at 2pm.

“I panicked, and went to UBC and community radios to make announcements. I also reported to different police stations in Katooke, Wamala and Kawempe. Many people gathered at my place and guided me on how to recover my child,” he said.

Still in shock, Bukenya received a call from a stranger telling him to read a message sent to his phone.

“In the message, he was accusing me of being careless with my child. He told me to stop making announcements because I was wasting time and money since the child was with him,” he remembers.

“He told me to send Shs 5 million on mobile money. If I failed, they would chop off his head and dump it in my compound. He also told me to send Shs 100,000 to feed my child.”

Bukenya dashed to Central police station in Kampala and reported to Flying Squad, a violent crime police crack unit. The commandant, Hebert Muhangi, assigned around 20 police officers to the case.

“We spent the whole day in Matugga, Kagoma and Kawanda tracking the kidnapper’s movements …,” he said.

At one point, police advised that the money be sent as investigations proceeded.

“I started borrowing till I got Shs 4.2 million and sent it to kidnappers. On February 6, they told me to pick my child from a washing bay opposite Saidinah Abubakar hospital, Matugga,” Bukenya said.

So happens that the kidnappers monitored his movements.

“As I was driving, they asked me, where I had reached. When I lied to them, they abused me and told me the exact place where I was. They later told me to stop …” he said.

“They told me to remove all the people I was travelling with in the car. They told me to send more mobile money. They later dumped my child at the washing bay.”

After a week, Ashely recognised his captors on TV news. They were being paraded at Kawempe police station upon being arrested for kidnapping another child.

“I took the boy to police and he identified the man who kidnapped him. I was very angry and almost went for the kidnapper’s neck to strangle him,” he said.

In the case of Bob Kambere of Kisumu zone, Katooke, their six-year-old son, Joel Bwambale, was kidnapped as he rode a bicycle around the neighbourhood on February 15.

“A kidnapper deceived the child that he was going to buy him another bicycle. They took him to Wattuba village in Matugga and hid him in their house. The kidnapper left a letter at my home with their telephone contacts, directing us to send mobile money Shs 70,000 to feed my child. They also told us to send Shs 6 million as ransom,” Kambere said.

After Kambere sent Shs 4.2 million, the kidnappers informed the parents to pick the boy from Saidinah Abubakar hospital where Joel was found crying.

“We asked him to direct us where he was kidnapped and he took us there. We went back the following night and managed to arrest the suspects at 4am,” a police source said.

In the third case, the five-year-old child of an official working in the Directorate of Public Prosecutions in Kampala was recovered after the family paid Shs 4.5 million. The boy was dropped off at the DPP’s office by a boda boda cyclist.

“The child’s parents arrested the boda boda cyclist, suspecting him to have kidnapped the boy since he returned him. But the cyclist defended himself, claiming that he was just given the child to drop,” a police source said.

When the suspected kidnappers were arrested, this cyclist identified one of them as having given him the kidnapped boy to drop off.

The O/C CID Katooke police station, Robert Agaba, said, so far, two suspects; Ian Mugula and God Kasanya are being held at Kawempe.

Kidnap victims 2016 to-date

1. Mariam Nankubuge, 4, from Bwaise, February 11, still missing.

2. Ashely Bukenya, 4, from Bwaise, February 2, recovered February 6 from Matugga.

3. Joel Bwambale, 6, from Bwaise, February 15, recovered on February 20.

4. Faith Emmanuel Poni, 4, from Kampala Parents’ School, kidnapped March 14, 2017 and rescued by police, March 18, 2017.

5. Susan Magara, 28 from Lungujja, February 7, recovered dead February 27 along Northern By-pass.

6. Issac Makubuya, 27, missing, February 13, 2018

7. Fatumah Sendagire Nabiwemba, a senior prosecutor, recovered on February 6, after disappearing on December 12, 2017 from her home in Gayaza.

8. Twin girls, 5, from Mabaale, Luweero recovered by police in February from Masindi.

9. Dr Kenneth Majoku, Mulago hospital dentist, kidnapped and robbed of Shs 5.4m on December 20, 2017.

10. Gerald Yashaba, rescued September 18, 2017, when kidnappers allegedly led by Superintendent of Police Gerald Edyegu were asking for Shs 360m.

11. Daniel Weldo, Eritrean businessman, kidnapped and killed in 2016.

12. Sharon Amutebi, II, missing since March 5, recovered March 6.

13. Derrick Musoni Mukyega, missing since March 4 2018.

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