The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Martin Ochola has directed regional, district, and division police commanders to prevent pilgrims from walking during the late night hours to avoid potential dangers. The police have reported an influx of pilgrims traveling to Namugongo from neighboring countries such as Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and South Sudan. Additionally, many are walking from districts including Kanungu, Lira, and Gulu.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people embark on a pilgrimage to the Catholic and Anglican shrines in Namugongo to commemorate the bravery of the Uganda Martyrs on June 3rd, who allegedly sacrificed their lives for their faith. In his directive, the IGP emphasized the need to prevent a recurrence of previous incidents where pilgrims were fatally injured while walking in the dark.
Last year, 54-year-old Jovita Tukahiirwa was killed by a speeding Toyota Harrier registration number UBH 186F, after walking approximately 135 kilometers of her 395-kilometer journey from Ntungamo district to Namugongo. In 2019, four Kenyan pilgrims lost their lives when a speeding taxi driver lost control and collided with them in Bugodi village along the Iganga-Jinja highway. The victims were identified as Joselyn Wanjala, Sarah Ajambo, Pelivin Malinde, and Geoffrey Ogaga.
In addition to accidents, pilgrims have also been targeted by criminals during the dark hours. The police have stated that pilgrims will be allowed to begin their journey as early as 4 am, with police officers providing foot and vehicle patrols for their safety. Fred Enanga, the police spokesperson, revealed that IGP Ochola has instructed police commanders to ensure that resting places for the pilgrims are heavily guarded.
The police’s Directorate of Health Services, under the leadership of Moses Byaruhanga, has been tasked with deploying ambulances along all highways to respond to any health emergencies encountered by the pilgrims. Regional police commanders have also been advised to periodically review deployment plans due to the increasing numbers of pilgrims. Enanga reported that no tragic incidents or crimes have been reported thus far.
Meanwhile, preparations are underway at Namugongo Catholic shrines, with service providers busy making bookings for their operating areas. Within the Catholic shrines, designated spots have been allocated for food and clothing vendors, as well as medical service teams.