UGANDA Bans ‘Okada’ Riders From Wearing Hoodies

© Reuters     Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni

© Reuters
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni

By Alon Mwesigwa in Kampala

UGANDA’S president has banned motorcycle drivers from wearing hoodies in an attempt to tackle rising crime rates in the country.

Figures published this week show the number of reported crimes grew by 3.3% between 2016 and 2017.

As part of Yoweri Museveni’s 10-point plan on security, police will have the power to fine motorcyclists covering their heads with anything other than a helmet. Helmets are now compulsory and must be fitted with illuminated numbers both at the front and back.

Cameras are to be installed on roads inside towns and along highways.

“Potentially, the criminal or enemy can evade other forms of detection except the optical: eye, camera and telescope,” Museveni said.

Motorcycle taxis (known as boda bodas) are often used by criminals because it is easy for them to escape crime scenes.

The security plan comes amid growing anxiety over rising crime, particularly in the capital, Kampala.

One high-profile incident occurred on 8 June, when the MP Ibrahim Abiriga and his bodyguard were shot dead outside the politician’s home, a short distance from Kampala. Two suspects have been arrested.

“They [killers] are pigs, they are idiots,” Museveni told villagers and the victims’ relatives at the scene the next day. The president promised to hunt the killers down – now a ritual assurance whenever a murder occurs.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has made public security a watchword of his rule.Photograph: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters

Museveni made the same pledge in February, after the kidnap and murder of an accountant. But other murders, such as that of 19-year-old student Brinah Nalule in May, passed quietly.

Last year, a series of grisly homicides in and around Kampala sparked fears of a serial killer at large.

The national police chief, Martin Ochola, told journalists in May that there had been 42 kidnappings in Uganda since February. Roughly half of the abductions were found to be hoaxes, but eight people were killed by kidnappers, eight were rescued alive and seven were still missing, said Ochola. The victims were mainly women or children.

The annual crime report shows that the number of reported incidences of crime increased from 243,746 in 2016 to 252,065 last year.

For every 100,000 Ugandans, 667 people were victims of crime in 2017 compared with 645 in 2016.

Homicide increased by 3.7 % last year. Land wrangles, dissatisfaction with delayed or omissions of justice, family misunderstandings and business rivalry were major causes of the killings, police said.

But this is on the back of years of rising crime rates.

A report published last year by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics said serious crime – including homicides, aggravated robbery, defilement, rape, child stealing, and trafficking – rose sharply between 2014 and 2015. At least 32,198 serious crimes were investigated in 2015, up from 20,475 in 2014.

Growing insecurity is a blow to Museveni, who has made peace the hallmark of his 33-year rule. Ugandans have been told they sleep easy under his rule, compared with life during past regimes. Confidence in his approach has previously won Museveni support from rural areas, but now questions are being asked.

In March, Museveni sacked the security minister and his longest serving police chief because of their perceived failure to tackle rising crime.

However, there is public disquiet that some crimes are facilitated by members of the security agencies. The new police chief has disbanded the Flying Squad, an elite unit thought to have colluded with criminals.

In response, Museveni has said all gun owners now have to be registered so that, “once a cartridge is fired, we shall be able to tell which gun discharged the bullet”.

He also said people charged with murder would not be given bail.

Yet some commentators say Museveni’s attempts to address crime treat the symptom, not the root cause. His rule has coincided with growing inequality, with much of the country’s wealth concentrated in the hands of the few able to access state resources through corruption and cronyism.

Last year, Oxfam said Uganda had experienced “growth with exclusion” (pdf), with relatively few people benefiting from economic gains. The richest 10% of the population, said Oxfam, enjoy 35.7% of the national income, while the poorest 10% claim only 2.5%.

Paul Lakuma, a research fellow at local thinktank the Economic Policy Research Centre, said “evidence suggests a strong correlation between inequality, unemployment and raising crime”.

Related: The Ugandan girl who trekked barefoot to escape marriage at 13

“We need jobs and government must establish whether joblessness in Uganda is leading to crime,” said Lakuma.

Livingstone Sewanyana, the executive director of Foundation for Human Rights Initiative in Uganda, said the main causes of insecurity in the country were the growing divide between the rich and poor, erosion of confidence in public leaders and a culture of impunity as security forces were infiltrated by gangs.

Poor governance breeds crime, said Sewanyana: “For a very long time, the opposition in this country has had a raw deal. There is no space for alternative ideas. It is about one man running the show.”

He added that the general population sensed those close to the regime were untouchable and felt it unfair.

Unemployment has led many young people to turn to social media to vent their anger at a system that is not working for them, although a tax on using Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp is likely add fuel to the fire.

CREDIT: The Guardian

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