On February 16, 2018, Sam Namanya, a specialist with the Special Forces Command (SFC) left his workplace in Kampala to rest at his residence in Najjera.
Along the way, he decided to buy milk from Joy Supermarket in Najjera.
Little did Namanya realise his movements were being closely monitored by hard-core criminals.
He parked his Nissan Serena brand car before disembarking to buy milk.
Namanya chose to first order for a rollex from the chapatti makers on the roadside.
It never crossed Namanya’s mind that he was in danger.
“I went to Joy Supermarket and it was closed. I returned to the chapatti guy to find out when my rollex would be ready. I realised my car was half open,” he recounted.
This lasted less than five minutes. His precious items – a mattress, suitcase, blanket, two pairs of bedsheets, phones and watch were stolen.
Namanya asked the chapatti maker known as Geoffrey if he had seen anyone breaking into his car. Geoffrey vehemently denied.
Namanya piled pressure on Geoffrey as he was nearby when the theft occurred. Eventually, Geoffrey agreed to provide help.
Geoffrey said if assisted, he could take Namanya to a den of thieves terrorising the area.
Geoffrey and Namanya swiftly rushed to Najjera police station where they picked police officers.
Geoffrey led them to the residence of a Councillor where the suspected thief, Alex Malaalo, was hiding. It turned out that Malaalo worked at the same chapatti stall with Geoffrey.
Why would Geoffrey help a stranger arrest his workmate? They had a way out.
Nevertheless, Malaalo was brought to Kiira road police station where he led police to an unfinished building. Some of Namanya’s lost items were found here.
Interestingly, as Namanya walked around the building, Malaalo escaped.
“I went back to Najjera Police Station for reinforcement and on return even the one who had led us to the thief also escaped,” Namanya said, according to court documents seen by ChimpReports.
Geoffrey and Malaalo tactfully disappeared. As it was the custom, some police officers knew their activities. Every time Malaalo was caught in acts of theft, Geoffrey would bail him out.
Luck ran out recently when Malaalo stole from a drunken man’s home in Najjera only to land in police’s hands.
The authorities in the area have toughened on crime, leading to Malaalo’s prosecution before courts of law.
Malaalo has since been convicted on charges of robbery and sentenced to Luzira where he will serve four years.
How to avoid danger
Police officers say Ugandans need to be wary of whom they interact with and share private information.
“The chapatti makers are stationery. They are always observing people’s movements. For example, they know what time you leave home and return from work, making it easier for them to plan the robbery,” said a cop who preferred anonymity to speak freely.
“In extreme circumstances, the chapatti makers are called to people’s homes. So they use this opportunity to do surveillance and know all the corners of the house – the entry and exit points.”
Cops say the public must stop allowing chapatti makers and boda boda riders at their workplaces and homes.
If you are buying chapatti, don’t share your private information with them. Buy your stuff and go away.
Our investigation shows that chapatti makers act as intelligence gatherers and listening posts for armed gangs.
For boda boda riders, police say they easily obtain confidential information about homes which they pass on to criminals.
For example, boda riders are used to deliver large quantities of alcohol for house parties.
“In the case of girls, the boda riders can realise they are too drunk and easily pass on information to robbers to storm the house in the wee hours when everyone is dead asleep,” said a crime investigation officer.
“If you’ve sent a boda rider to buy you drinks, pick them from the gate. Don’t allow them to assess the situation inside. If possible, hire security for one night to secure your visitors’ property and your residence till morning.”
Ali Musema, a chapatti seller in Kiwatule says not everyone in the trade is an agent of criminals.
“We are legitimate business people. However, our industry has been infiltrated by criminals,” said Musema.
He says some criminals also pose as chapatti makers to monitor targets for big gangs.
Interestingly, Musema says some people use chapatti makers to spy on their spouses.
“Men and women give us money to spy on their loved ones. For instance, a man will want to know if someone is coming to pick his girlfriend in our neighbourhood or even get evidence that someone visits his home whenever he is away,” said Musema.
“We are all looking for money. I don’t see anything wrong with sharing information as long as I am paid,” he emphasised.
Najjera is one the fast growing suburbs in Kampala, attracting the country’s middle class.
Residents have access to supermarkets, posh bars, salons, garages, cinema halls (neighbouring Naalya town), financial services, recreational facilities and restaurants.
The growth of the suburb has attracted all sorts of service providers to meet the growing demand for quick food services, sex and entertainment.
As early as 2011, George William Ssembooze, chairman of Balintuma Zone Kiwatule parish, attributed the rise of crime to the population explosion the area has experienced in the recent past.
He said unfinished structures serve as a hide-out for the robbers.
“We have got many settlers whose behaviour we do not know, and we suspect them. The number of wooden shack joints has increased, and it is in here that the robbers hide as they wait for their prey in the wee hours,” he observed.
ChimpReports understands police have so far increased foot patrols in the area, strengthened community policing and received military support to combat criminality.
The area recently witnessed the brutal murder of businessman Archie Rwego.
Thugs leapt over the fence where they killed before breaking into the main house and stabbed Rwego to death.
But James Mutaire, Najjera Police OC/CID says the law enforcement is “doing everything in its means to beef up security in the area.”
He did not give us details, referring us to the public relations office.
Officials say more military deployments have been made in the area to help police respond rapidly to security emergencies.