A number of unsolved murders of women in recent weeks has put police in Uganda on the spot for not being able to apprehend those behind the gruesome murders.
Widespread media coverage of the appearance of 20 corpses beside roadsides south of the capital since May reflects public anger with police for repeatedly saying they have arrested the perpetrators, only for another body to be discovered.
In Wakiso district south of Kampala where most of the victims have been found, few residents have faith that the killings will stop.
We live in fear. We cannot cultivate our farms anymore because we are scared of being attacked while at work. We barely sleep at night because we need to stay alert and when it rains you can't clearly hear what's happening outside. We are so afraid our hearts are not settled
One of the victims Aisha Nakasinga, used to run this grocery shop but never returned after leaving one day to buy stock for her business.
Her friend Aidah Nakimera says news of her grisly murder has left residents shocked and worried about their safety.
“We used to hear of such killings happening in other places until it happened to our own people. It was very terrible when we woke up one morning and our own friend was missing. We searched for her only to find her body badly mutilated and dumped near the military barracks. As a woman I was very affected. I sympathized with her and with other women. I was shocked at what they did to her and I am trying to come to terms with what I saw,” said Nakimera.
“We live in fear. We cannot cultivate our farms anymore because we are scared of being attacked while at work. We barely sleep at night because we need to stay alert and when it rains you can’t clearly hear what’s happening outside. We are so afraid our hearts are not settled,” said another Wasiko resident, Rose Nabakooza.
The government has defended the police, who say they have arrested 30 suspects and charged 13 of them, listing possible motives ranging from domestic rows through sexual abuse to ritual murder linked to human sacrifice.
There have been occasional individual cases of alleged ritual murder in the east African nation, but this is the first time there has been such a large number of people killed in similar circumstances in the same area.
Emilian Kayima, is the spokesperson of Kampala Metro Police.
“We intensified certain mechanisms, policing mechanisms, crime prevention mechanisms. We increased our community policing which is a mechanism of getting in touch with the people more. We increased our patrols, focused patrols both motorized and foot and of course supported by the community in these areas. We popularized the neighbourhood watch scheme,” he said.
In a nod to the public outrage, lawmakers stopped work for two days this week after the 20th body was found, saying ministers had failed to appear before the legislature over the killings in three districts on the outer edge of Kampala.
Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo accused them of populism, saying “They should leave police to work without pressure.”
The opposition and rights activists have long accused security forces of neglecting crime to focus on political control, often breaking up opposition rallies with teargas, beatings or detentions.
“There could be more than meets the eye in all this and those that are schooled in security should be reading a little more deeply and their script should not be an ordinary script and I think probably one discerns a partner in all this. I refuse to simply accept that all these are related to domestic violence because Ugandans have not just started living together man and woman and all of a sudden they have discovered a new trick of settling domestic issues,” said Muhammad Ndifuna, Executive Director, Uganda Human Rights Network.
Many residents suspect the murder victims are killed elsewhere and the bodies later dumped.