KAMPALA- Several unnamed individuals are reported to have been taken into police custody yesterday on suspicion of having played a part in what the police say was the weekend kidnapping of a city authority lawyer.
As reports of the arrests emerged, panicking family members were relieved to learn late Tuesday morning that the missing official had been found, though he appeared to have been injured.
Security sources, speaking off the record, told Daily Monitor that they have arrested a number of people and that they are continuing a manhunt of other suspects.
More details unveiled by press time suggest that Mr Mubarak Kalenge may have known the people who grabbed him outside an eating house in the city’s Bukoto area of Nakawa Division, east of Kampala.
He is reported to have briefly spoken to at least two of them before they turned on him.
Police Flying Squad Unit commander Herbert Muhangi told this newspaper that they “rescued” Mr Kalenge from somewhere in the sprawling Salama locality of Makindye Division.
Mr Muhangi, however, said that he couldn’t say anything about the motive of the attackers, and whether they were keeping Mr Kalenge in a residential area or not.
“It was a kidnap and he has been rescued. We shall give you details when we are done with the investigations,” Mr Muhangi said. Some mystery shrouds the circumstances surrounding the temporary disappearance and re-appearance of the lawyer.
Other police officers gave conflicting accounts as to where the rescued official had been taken upon being “rescued”. Some said he was taken to Norvik Hospital, while others spoke of Case Clinic.
It eventually turned out that Mr Kalenge was undergoing treatment at Kololo Hospital from where both the police and relatives refused to reveal the nature of injuries he sustained during his time in captivity.
Authorities at Kololo Hospital remained inaccessible to journalists who were barred from entering the premises.
Relatives, who had freely talked to Daily Monitor about the kidnap yesterday morning, were not cooperative by mid-afternoon, saying they were instructed by the police not to say anything about the case to the media.
One of them only briefly mentioned that the lawyer was “taken to the theatre” for unspecified medical attention then later brought back to the ward when his condition stabilised.
“He hasn’t talked to us yet. But his health has improved,” the relative said.
Several eyewitnesses who talked to Daily Monitor said the attack on Mr Kalenge started just after 7 p.m.
It happened very fast, with the five perpetrators executing their mission with almost military-like precision and skill, subduing their victim within minutes.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one eyewitness said he was standing talking to a friend near Mr Kalenge’s car, a Toyota Mark X, in the parking yard when the city official walked out and talked to two men.
“The victim (Mr Kalenge) talked to the two men briefly outside his car. Then they entered the car, with one of the two men taking a back seat, where they continued chatting for less than 10 minutes,” the eyewitness said.
The eyewitness said shortly after, Mr Kalenge started shouting that he was being robbed and asking for help.
“He shouted in Luganda ‘Munyambe, abasajja baagala kunziba’ (Help me! These men want to rob me!),” the eyewitness said.
“That is when my friend and I came to his rescue. I asked them whether they were security agents.
They said he (Kalenge) was under arrest. The victim responded that he was an innocent man who works as a lecturer and lawyer. We demanded that they show us their identity cards. They declined,” he said.
He said the man who had sat in the rear seat put the victim in a chokehold while the one in the co-driver’s seat drew a pistol.
Scared, the eyewitness said he and his colleague took off as they also cried out for help from the neighbours.
“His pistol dropped as he was moving out of the car,” he said.
Mr Julius Agasa, a manager at Afro-American Restaurant, said a third man joined the unfolding scuffle and dragged Mr Kalenge out of the driver’s seat.
“The third man held him by the neck as his accomplices jumped out of the victim’s car. But the victim put up a spirited fight, [holding] on the electric pole. Another man with a beard and dressed in purple tunic helped them carry [Kalenge] to a Toyota Ipsum that had been parked across the road,” Mr Agasa said.
Mr Agasa said the men, except one who was bearded, jumped in the car and sped off towards the city centre.
He said the man who was in the tunic then walked casually down Ntinda-Bukoto road.
“Everybody was watching everything at a distance. Our clients ran to the kitchen. Ladies in our saloon also ran to the backyard,” he said.
After a few minutes, Mr Agasa said, he called Mr Filbert Waibi, Kira Road Division police commander.
But by the time police responded the grab was done.
Mr Waibi’s team towed Mr Kalenge’s car down the road to Kira Road Police Division headquarters.
Flying Squad Unit was then called in. Yesterday, Mr Waibi declined to say how the individuals now in custody were tracked to Makindye Division.
Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) spokesman Peter Kaujju said it is still too early to say whether the taking of Mr Kalenge had anything to do with his work at KCCA.
“Details surrounding circumstances under which he went missing are yet to be divulged … I wouldn’t be able to tell since investigations have just commenced,” Mr Kaujju said.
Last week, Mr Muhangi cautioned the public about civilians with links to security agencies and former operatives of disbanded security units like Rapid Response Unit, Violent Crime Crack Unit and Operation Wembley, who are conning people and carrying out illegal arrests.
He said the impersonators take and hold their victims in illegal facilities.
This is the tenth suspected kidnap case Flying Squad Unit is involved in since January last year and the second in less than a month.
It follows the kidnapping and killing of two Chinese women in Makerere Kinoni, a Kampala suburb weeks ago.