Why are LDUs in Uganda Extorting Kampalans?

By John Njoroge

It has taken me a bit of a personal debate to decide whether or not I should write about the following incident. My inner self was telling me to let it be, but my mind is telling me, it is the proper thing to do and it will be on the record.

Last evening at about 9:30 pm as I was clearing my personal outside space before going to rest I saw our guard seated on his usual car tyre but unlike always he didn’t greet me with his usual enthusiasm. And so instinctively I queried what could possibly be bothering him. After much debating, he said he was ‘a bit’ hungry. Of course, the ‘abit’ is downplaying the fact that he was in fact very hungry.

I went into my house and got some money and gave him to rush to a nearby restaurant and buy some takeaway. I mean, it’s just 9:30 pm. He goes.
20 minutes later he rings me and upon answering he tells me he has been arrested by the Local Defence Unit (LDUs) patrolling our area. You see there have been some incidences of mugging and phone snatching because some of our neighbours have ignored reinstalling perimeter security lights. So there are a few dark spots where petty thieves take advantage of. Additionally, there is an arce of the abandoned property with no caretaker. So the new patrols are really welcome.

I ask the guard to pass his phone to one of the officers which he does and I explained that the young man was my employee. He asks if I could come personally and identify myself. So I walk to the spot and I find them very well spaced, others I didn’t see at first. I saw my boy seated on the ground together with many others.

I ask to speak to the commander. Our defence chairman was in fact present so things were relatively OK.

When the commander emerged, he was completely DRUNK. SLOSHED! I asked if he was the one I spoke to and identified my guard. He told me in fact he had now identified two offences the boy had committed.

First is moving without a national ID and second not being at his work station because I have said he is my guard.
I look at this fellow. Completely drunk and steaming of potent gin, carrying an AK47 with nearly 14 others at his command two of which were female, and I don’t know what to say. So I keep silent.

I realise if I try to out-reason this bafoon, my boy will be taken and it may end up in a prolonged battle.
I stood and just looked at him. He told me he is a primary school teacher, tells me his village, tells me all manner of irrelevant things, tells me to photograph him if I want. I keep silent. So the defence chair whispers to me: ‘the boy has no problem, you will take him”
In the meantime, more and more people are being stopped, boda boda riders who have just dropped customers on their was back are stop. I witness a mini roadblock at 10 pm in Kampala City.

The commander keeps walking back and forth between the different checkpoints, two LDUs continue to question some people clearly working-class office fellows, some in ties. I could see some of them parting with cash before they were let go. I did not shift my ground.

Finally, he comes back to me and asked if I had any questions. I told him I had just come for my boy and nothing else.

He walked away and suddenly stops and turns back to me. He tells me I am now sensible and was calm and not arguing with them which is good to be humble with people.
I am looking at this drunk ninkompup.

I had not even spoken a paragraph of words because I realised I was dealing with a drunk money-hungry extortionist with a gun and the victim would be my boy who errored by leaving the compound without his identification.

I remain silent. He tells my boy to get up, they search him and asked him if he was carrying cigarettes. I didn’t know cigarettes were now illegal and my guard is 25 years old, not a minor.

They take his food, look into it, touch it and passed the paper bag to me. The commander then tells me, take your boy and if you want you can leave for us something with defence.

I thank him and walk away with my boy. A few steps and he calls out, sir I stop and turn around. He says, you mean there is nothing. I reply, “thank you for the good work, keep it up” and I don’t move. He then says “go safely” hence me and my boy move on back to my gate leaving scores of young men and women being extorted at 10 pm

We are in serious trouble if in February 2020 this is the state of affairs. What will happen by January 2021?

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