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Masaka residents flee homes amid fear of machete killers

Some of the residents in Kyoko Village, Lwengo District, at their home on Friday. Strangers wrote messages on the wall of their house threatening to attack them. PHOTO/GERTRUDE MUTYABA

MASAKA, UGANDA: Residents in the Masaka Sub-region are fleeing their homes fearing possible attacks by panga-wielding thugs who have wreaked havoc in the area, killing 26 people in the past one month.

Despite the beefed-up security by the joint military forces in the region, Masaka local leaders say some residents, especially elderly persons, have expressed a sense of uncertainty about their safety in the area since they’re the main target in the attacks.

Speaking to this website, Kkingo village chairperson, Mr. Ronald Kateregga of Kkingo Village said two of his residents have so far abandoned their homes in fear of their lives.

“We have two families that have deserted their homes to stay with other relatives, these families of Mr Jawadu Kakeeto and Mr Steven Jjemba. They have a genuine reason and we cannot stop them, Kateregga said on Sunday.

“Some people still have fear basing on what has been happening in the area in the past weeks, but I am sure they will come back when they really feel safe,” he added.

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He further encouraged locals who have remained behind to be more vigilant but also avoid night movements and leave security do its night operations.

“I encourage others [residents] who have remained behind to be more vigilant, they should also avoid night movements because our vigilantes are at work together with police, and ready to detect where the assailants could be,” he said.

Lwengo, has been the epicentre of the night attacks where out of the  26 deaths,18 have been  recorded in the district while the rest were from Masaka City and Bukomansimbi, Lyantonde, Sembabule, Rakai, and Kyotera districts.

Mr Andrew Matovu, the chairperson   Kyoko Village in Lwengo, said three elderly persons deserted their homes last week and relocated to Kampala.

“I advise my people not to run away, instead they should work with us to see how we can overcome this situation,” he said.

Mr Paul Bbira, the chairperson Mirembe Village, Lwengo, said residents who stay alone in houses are accommodated by others in the same locality to reduce their vulnerability to attacks .

“We found out that the killers fear attacking bigger families because they can ably fight back. So, those staying alone are advised to go to their close relatives or friends during evening hours and spend the night there, we are providing security to all those people to  ensure they are safe,” he said.

A similar arrangement, according to Mr Aloysius Kibira, the chairperson  Kkingo Sub-county, has been adopted in all villages in his area.

Mr Herman Ssentongo, formerly Mityana Resident District Commissioner, but now posted to Lwengo, said he is yet to get in touch with the district security team and all village security committees to improve efficiency in the security of the area .

“We are going to strengthen the security teams at all levels and I urge our people not to run away from their villages. This is a temporary problem we are yet to fix ,” he said.

Mr Joseph Kayemba, a resident of Kyoko Village, said he has since relocated to his brother’s place in Mpigi District.

“I am in Mpigi with my brother who has a bigger family. There are a lot of threats at our village despite the presence of vigilante teams,” he said.

Mr Kayemba said he hopes to return to his home village when the situation normalises.

Police on Friday summoned two Opposition legislators Muhammad Ssegirinya (Kawempe North) and Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West) for questioning over  alleged sponsoring of killings in the sub-region .

About 70 suspects have since been arrested in connection with the night killings , of which 10 were produced in court last Wednesday on charges of murder and attempted murder before being remanded to Masaka Ssaza Prison until September 15.

This has brought some sigh of relief and no killing has been reported since last Monday, unlike the past weeks where a death or two would be reported every morning.

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It is now evident that machete-wielding thugs, who first gained notoriety in Masaka have already spread their wings in area parts of central region.

Additional Reporting by Monitor

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