- In December 2016, the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura told the media about the existence of a mafia within the Police Force. Then following the grisly murder on March 17 of Deputy Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP), Andrew Felix Kaweesi, President Yoweri Museveni took a swipe at the Police force saying it had been infiltrated by criminal gangs. That was cemented by a confession on April 24 by a suspected thug that the machete-wielding criminals who have been terrorising parts of greater Masaka and Kampala have been working with the Police.prior to those rather unsettling public statements, an Assistant Superintendent of Police, Stephen Mugarura, had penned a dossier in which he accused sections of the Police leadership of being in bed with criminals, to which he attributed the rise in crime levels and sophistication of the manner in which the criminals operate. In a four part series beginning today, Daily Monitor’s Gillian Nantume, brings you firsthand accounts of the men and women who have fallen prey to criminal gangs only to be frustrated by elements within the Police Force.
- Issue: A complainant remains stranded because the Police in Fort Portal had, without verifying whether she had really died in an accident in Kampala, dropped charges against those who were suspected to have defrauded her. No effort has been made to re-arrest them. Daily Monitor’s Gillian Nantume, brings you firsthand accounts of the men and women who have fallen prey to criminal gangs only.
Lillian Muteteli, a resident of Mbiko township in Buikwe District, describes herself as a staunch mobiliser for the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.
Such is her zeal that during the 2016 presidential elections, she volunteered to guard a ballot box containing her presidential candidate’s ballots in Njeru Town Council, a move which she claims brought her into conflict with supporters of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). The FDC people allegedly beat her up.
Now, though, she decries her treatment at the hands of several police officers who she claims are helping the criminals who have conned her of over Shs23 million.
The widow began trading in agricultural produce 18 years ago.
“I had to fend for my four young children, so I sold my plot of land and bought 50 sacks of maize from diverse areas in Jinja and Kaliro districts. I used to sell the maize to the maize mills in Jinja. Unfortunately, after sometime, the maize growers were attracted by the sugarcane craze.”
Maize dealers now had to look farther. A friend advised her to buy maize from Kagadi, Kibaale District and sell it to the maize mills in Jinja and Kisenyi in Kampala. With time, the price of maize fell and she shifted to trading in dry cassava, grinding it in Hoima District and selling the flour in Kasese District.
The switch to dealing in cassava also forced her to change places of abode. Along the way she became a resident of Hoima.
On October 22, 2013, Muteteli received a phone call from a man claiming to have a large supply of maize.
“At that time, farmers were selling maize at Shs800 per kilo. This man, who identified himself as Bob, was offering a kilo at Shs650. He said he was an employee of NAADS (National Agricultural Advisory Services) and was selling the maize without the knowledge of his bosses.”
With prices ranging between Shs900 and Shs1,000 per a kilogramme, the offer promised a better profit margin.
Bob told her to travel to Kyembogo in Fort Portal where she would find the maize packed and loaded on a lorry.
“When I arrived, I found two men – Bob and his colleague – waiting for me by the roadside. They did not allow me to go to the NAADS stores claiming they did not want their bosses to see me. We sat down on the grass to talk. Across the road from us, a group of prisoners were digging. A few feet away, stood an empty lorry and a Toyota Premio UAV 468L. Bob brought out a sample of the maize in a container and I checked it. It was good. I agreed to buy 6 tonnes (6,000 kgs) and gave Bob Shs4 million. He instructed his colleague to escort me to Fort Portal town to buy a tundubaali (tarpaulin) to cover the lorry.”
The tarpaulin was estimated to cost Shs50,000. When they got to the town, the young man told her to wait for him at a shop while he bargained for the tarpaulin at a hardware store. That was the last she saw of him. When she called Bob after an hour, he told her his colleague had forgotten the location of the shop where he had left her, and had decided to return to the lorry. They were waiting for her so that the driver could begin the journey to Hoima.
“I got onto a bodaboda and returned to Kyembogo. The car and the lorry were gone. The prisoners were still digging. I asked the people around if they had seen the two men, and they told me they had driven off. They also told me many traders had been robbed in that spot. In fact two days earlier, a coffee trader had been conned of Shs50 million in that place.”
In a panic, the widow rushed to Boma Police Station and reported the case. She was given a reference, 428/13/FPolice.
“When I described the men to the OC CID (Steven) Mugarura he said he knew them because they had robbed many people. A week later, he arrested them. I discovered Bob is actually called Joseph Kyakuha, while his accomplice is called Ochaki. The Toyota Premio belonged to a man named Wilson Musinguzi. The car was impounded.”
Kyakuha admitted conning Muteteli, but claimed it was only Shs2.3 million. The suspects were produced in court and remanded.
Then Musinguzi, who was on remand, is said to have started making threatening calls to CID boss Steven Mugarura.
Shortly after, Mr Mugarura was abruptly transferred from Fort Portal to police headquarters in Kampala, where he was rendered largely redundant in a practice commonly known as “katebe”. The case then stalled.
Following his transfer, Mr Mugarura penned a letter to President Museveni and Inspector General of Police kale Kayihura accusing some of his senior colleagues of abetting crime.
For his troubles, Mr Mugarura was on Tuesday dragged before the disciplinary committee of the Force and charged with “petitioning President outside the normal channels of correspondence; without going through the Inspector General of Police”.
Charges against him also include discreditable conduct and unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority.
Back in Fort Portal, Mr Mugarura’s transfer inevitably meant that investigations into the Muteteli theft ground to a halt. The suspect’s attention then shifted to the complainant. Musinguzi reportedly incessantly called the hapless woman, threatening her with harm if she did not abandon the case.
Muteteli tried to revive her business and move on by getting a Shs7 million loan to add to the Shs2 million she had remained with. This time, she bought the cassava from Budaka District and sold the flour in Kasese. However, in July 2014 disaster struck again.
“I boarded a bus in Kampala with the intention of travelling to Budaka. I had Shs12 million on me in cash. I believe those conmen followed me from Kasese. There were a few passengers in the bus. Suddenly, a fight broke out among some men who had just entered the bus. The passengers fled. As I rose to run out of the bus, someone placed a handkerchief over my face. I lost consciousness.”
The criminals dropped the unconscious woman at Mukono Police Station. The policemen took her Namirembe Hospital Mukono, where she regained consciousness two days later.
“When I awoke, there were tubes connecting me to machines. I did not remember what had happened. But then, I got a phone call, and on answering, it was Musinguzi warning me not to report to the police if I valued my life. However, I reported a case at Mukono Police Station but since I could not identify the bus, the case stalled.”
Muteteli returned to Fort Portal police station to check on the progress of her case. She was informed that the police had “received” information that she had died in Kampala; therefore, they had released the suspects and the car.
From whom had the police received this information? Had they bothered to cross check? Had they obtained anything like a death certificate to establish beyond reasonable doubt that she had indeed died?
They could not provide any answers and there was no effort to reopen the charges now that it had been established that she was still alive and still interested in getting justice.
Thus frustrated, Muteteli secured another loan of Shs2 million and went back to trading. All was well until December 11, 2016, when she was conned again. The men who called her claimed they had maize to sell in Kyenjojo District. After seeing a sample of the maize, she gave them Shs7.8 million and has never seen them again.
“There is a criminal syndicate that is targeting produce traders. Some of my colleagues have been robbed of Shs50 million, Shs20 million, Shs60 million, and Shs90 million, respectively. These conmen present themselves as middlemen selling large quantities of produce. They even let you inspect the produce but when you give them the money, they disappear. That is when you realise the produce belonged to some farmer whom they had approached as potential buyers. They lie to the farmers that we are their (conmen’s) colleagues, coming to inspect the produce.”
Now, left with no capital, Muteteli spends every day in church, praying for God’s help. Three of her sons live in Mbiko and have missed university because of her woes. Only the first son completed his education and now works in Rwanda. Bedevilled by bank loans she is not sure she can afford to pay, the conmen still call her to threaten her.
She however knows that God operates through men and she just hopes that the man through whom He will swing into action is her former presidential candidate.
“Those men have successfully worked with police officers to frustrate me. I am an NRM supporter but it is bad that police is treating me like this. I call upon President Museveni to help me.”