Security Exchange News

Uganda's Women March Against Violence

05 July 2018

On Saturday hundreds of people took to the streets of Uganda to protests against the increasing violence against women in the country. The ‘One Million March' was organised by activists and rights groups, including Uganda's Women’s Protest Working Group, following a spike in violent attacks in the country. "We demand action and accountability for the rampant kidnapping, brutalising and murder of women in this country," said Lydia Namubiru, one of the event’s organisers. The ambassadors from France and the US also took part in the rally in a show of solidarity.

Since 2015 at least 42 women have been abducted and killed in and around the capital, Kampala, with many of the incidents reported between July and September last year. Attacks have continued into 2018 – in May 19-year-old Brinah Nalule was kidnapped in a taxi before her body was found dumped in the Rubaga division of Kampala. Many of the victims have been mutilated and brutally killed, prompting theories that witchcraft is behind the sharp rise in attacks. At least nine of the victims last year were found with sticks inserted into their genitals. Police officials have also claimed that jilted lovers and contract killers were responsible.

Inspector General of Police Martins Okoth Ochola had earlier blocked plans for the march in Kampala after claiming that the issue had been publicly addressed by President Yoweri Museveni and Ugandan security chiefs. He later backtracked, and police were deployed to Kampala to maintain security. Activists claim the authorities – namely the government and the police force – are not doing enough to prevent or fully investigate the attacks. Ahead of the march, Women’s Protest Working Group lawyer Patricia Twasiima demanded action from politicians: “No single case has been resolved. Just yesterday, two children were kidnapped after the live broadcasts from the ministers and the president. Did the speeches prevent that from happening?”

The attacks against women have coincided with a wider rise in violent crime in Uganda. Journalists, politicians, police officials and foreign nationals have all been targeted. Last month Ibrahim Abiriga, a lawmaker from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), was shot along with his bodyguard in Kawanda. In February a crime reporter from The New Vision was abducted by members of the security forces shortly after he wrote a story suggested that the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) was involved in the death of a Finnish national in Kampala. Tersvouri Toomajuha Petteri and Swedish national Alex Sebastian were found dead at two hotels in the city. Police later claimed both had died from drug overdoses.

The crime wave prompted President Museveni to launch a new 10-point security plan last month. Several of the new measures targeted motorcycles, which have been used to carry out multiple killings in Kampala. Hoods have been banned for motorcycle riders and electronic number plates are set to be enforced. However, the president has also been widely criticised for imposing a tax on social media, which he claimed was used to spread rumours and spark unrest. In March he sacked the country's security minister, General Elly Tumwine, and Okoth Ochola, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), while he also blamed the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) for the rise in violence. It is difficult to gauge exactly how much violent crime has increased in Uganda as official crime reports have not been released since 2013. However, citizens are becoming increasingly concerned that the elderly president is incapable of restoring security ahead of elections in