Crime Remains High in Gulu City Despite Arrest of Suspected Thugs

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Aswa River Region Police Spokesperson David Ongom Mudong acknowledged cases of crime are still being registered. He, notes that despite the recent arrests, it’s impossible to wipe out crimes within a just few days.
William Komakech, one of the victims of recent attacks by unknown thugs in Guliu City. He suffered a broken left leg after being hit with a stone.

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Unknown thugs have continued to wage attacks on unsuspecting residents of Gulu City despite heightened security. The vice comes at the backdrop of last month’s operation that saw the military arrest over 300 suspected criminals following President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s directive on ending crimes in Gulu city. 

William Komakech, a student at Gulu University is one of the victims of the latest attacks by unknown thugs. Komakech sustained a broken left leg after being stoned by thugs in the compound of his rented home in Pece Prison village in Pece-Laroo Division on Tuesday last week as he went out to ease himself. 

He told Uganda Radio Network in an interview on Wednesday that the suspects had broken into a neighbor’s house when he coincidentally opened his door to reach the urinals.

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According to Komakech, the thugs who were two in number attacked him with stones after he attempted to pursue one of them who was still within their compound.

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He however says much as some criminals were recently arrested by the army, the majority of them are still out at large.

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Steward Ogik, 24, a boda boda rider in Gulu City also narrowly survived being killed by unknown thugs in Gulu City last week. Ogik had reportedly carried a thug who disguised himself as a passenger but started strangling him using a wire at about 8 pm at a dark spot in Kanyagoga C Village in Bardege-Layibi Division.

His father Christopher Oloya told Uganda Radio Network in an interview that during the scuffle Ogik managed to stab to death one of the thugs strangling him. He says one of the thugs however fled off with his son’s bike.

“If it wasn’t for the knife my son was moving with at the time, which he bought for slaughtering a pig, he would have been killed. He sustained deep cuts on his neck and hands,” says Oloya.

At least 108 suspects out of more than 300 arrested were remanded to Gulu Central Prison by the Gulu Chief Magistrate’s court last month after a screening conducted by the Police. The suspects were charged with going armed in Public contrary to section 76 of the penal code act, loitering with intent to commit felony contrary to section 300 (1) of the penal code act, and committing common nuisance contrary to section 160 (1) of the penal code act.

But many stakeholders including rights activists slammed the indiscriminate arrest of suspects without proper intelligence, saying it won’t address the insecurity challenges in the city. Francis Obutu, a former Parliamentary aspirant for Tochi County in Omoro District says instead of rounding up suspected criminal gangs like it is being done currently, the security should instead shift their efforts to hunting the ringleaders.

According to Obutu, only the arrest of the ringleaders shall bring an end to the insecurity in Gulu City other than rounding up many people based on suspicion. Nicholas Ogwang, the Regional Manager Human Rights Commission for Acholi Sub-region, said a number of innocent individuals are on remand following the indiscriminate crackdown while the wrong elements are scot-free.

Speaking at a recent dialogue on ending torture in Gulu City, Ogwang said a mentally ill person is among some of the suspects rounded up by security and is currently locked up at Gulu Prison. Gulu Chief Magistrate, Said Barigye told journalists during a media engagement on Wednesday at the Gulu High Court circuit that the prosecution is yet to adduce evidence before the court to pin the suspects remanded.  

He said court couldn’t give bail to the suspects because the majority had no surety arguing that the matter was also still under investigation. “We are waiting for evidence to come, in case there is no evidence, we shall set the suspects free to go home,” says Barigye.

At least four major impromptu operations have been conducted by the military since last month to break the cartel of thugs in Gulu City. Aswa River Region Police Spokesperson David Ongom Mudong acknowledged cases of crime are still being registered.

He, notes that despite the recent arrests, it’s impossible to wipe out crimes within a just few days. He says the operations are still ongoing and notes that they hope it will yield benefits and curb down crimes.

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Mudong also notes that they are waiting for the legal advice of the state Attorney on whether the suspect's files will be sanctioned or dismissed.

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According to the Police Annual Crime report 2021, the Aswa River region ranked among some of the regions with the highest registered cases of homicide, which stood at 197 and 221 cases of robberies.