As the year-end festivities and business transactions pick up pace, the police have issued a warning to mobile money dealers and Village Savings and Credit Cooperation Organizations (SACCOs), highlighting their susceptibility to armed robberies during this period. This follows a recent surge in armed robberies across various parts of the country, recording five cases in the past five days.
Daniel Wamunga, the treasurer of a church zone SACCO in Magamaga town council, fell victim to an armed robbery, losing five million Shillings at gunpoint. “I kept the money at home, and although I’d done so previously without incident, thugs specifically targeted my home, taking all the money meant for our members,” explained Wamunga to the police.
Similarly, Shiphrah Lwate was attacked and robbed of 1.8 million Shillings intended for a village SACCO, also during nighttime, by armed robberies. A microfinance institution was robbed by its GKO security guards, who absconded, leaving their firearms behind.
The Flying Squad Unit (FSU) reported that the guards, identified as Kenneth Okuru and Andrew Omara, absconded after breaking into the safe and making off with cash and a laptop.
Fred Enanga, the Police spokesperson, highlighted a significant rise in robberies targeting SACCOs, microfinance, and mobile money agents, particularly during November and December.
Enanga urged the public to heighten vigilance, suggesting the use of security guards for significant transactions and advocating for cashless transactions to mitigate risks. “The public tends to be complacent and leave everything to security. If you are making huge transactions, please have guards. We also encourage people to use cashless transactions to minimize risks,” Enanga said.
Apart from robbery incidents resulting in monetary losses, some mobile money and banking agents have fallen victim to fatal attacks. Ruth Namata was reportedly murdered by a robber identified as John Barigye, who was subsequently tracked down using sniffer dogs in Isingiro district.
“The CCTV cameras captured Barigye attacking the agent. Our sniffer dogs managed to lead us to his hideout and he has since been arrested. We have recovered the knife Barigye used to kill Namata and he will be charged with aggravated robbery and murder,” Enanga said. Earlier, Luke Owoyesigyire, the deputy Kampala metropolitan police spokesperson, mentioned proactive operations aimed at ensuring a peaceful festive season. “Notably, a substantial number of known criminals, including four recently released from Luzira, were apprehended during this operation. Various illicit items such as breaking implements, knives, and opium were successfully recovered,” Owoyesigyire said.
Similar operations around Arua Park, Kinamwandu, and Nile Coach resulted in the apprehension of 16 suspected criminals involved in crimes like phone and bag thefts. “The operation specifically targeted phone snatchers, con artists, and opium smokers. The suspects were considered a threat to both locals and potential visitors to the country. They have been charged, and exhibits were recovered,” Owoyesigyire said.