A counter terrorism officer, who preferred anonymity, said several explosives that were buried in the ground during the turbulent times of Uganda are now exposed because of grazing, construction and soil erosion.
Abraham Tumusiime, a student of Kyambogo
University is nursing wounds after his shattered by a teargas canister.
The student experienced perhaps the worst
incident of his life when he tried to pick and throw a teargas canister at
police officers at the university but it exploded in his hands.
He was rushed to Nsambya hospital, which amputated his hand since
it couldn’t be saved. Although Tumusiime accuses
police of intentionally hitting him with the canister, he is now part of the
statistics of people who have been injured, maimed or killed by explosives.
Muzafaru Makakya, a secondary school student
also lost his arm to a teargas canister in October 2017. Makakya lost
his arm when a teargas can he was holding exploded inside his bedroom.
The then 17-year-old, picked the teargas canister
a few meters from his parent’s home in Makindye where police had used teargas
to disperse people protesting the scrapping of article 102(b) of the
constitution, which restricted the age of those vying for presidency to between
35 and 75 years.
Police Spokesperson, Fred Enanga cautions the public against
being tempted to pick up any kind of explosives such as grenades and teargas
canisters, saying it is dangerous.
“We often see people attempting to throw back
teargas canisters at police officers. It is true that teargas also affects
police officers. But you should know it is very risky to pick it with bare
hands because it has capacity to cause severe injuries on your body,” Enanga
Adding that, “People think
teargas is just that smoke. But I want to tell you that there are several
elements used to manufacture teargas. It is the reason it is able to explode
and smash someone’s body parts.”
According to a news article published by the BBC on November 25,
2011, most teargas canisters are manufactured using the o-chlorobenzylidene
malononitrile chemical alias CS.
The BBC article show that there haven’t been deaths
connected to the use of teargas. But Enanga says police officers are always
warned not to throw teargas canisters into crowded places as it may cause
“Our officers throw teargas in open places where it explodes
and the crowd is dispersed by the smoke it produces,” Enanga said.
Several people including children have in the
recent past been injured or killed by explosive devices they pick or stepped on
Six months ago, pupils of Mother Care Bright School in
Nabweru Sub County in Wakiso District were injured when an object they were
playing with exploded inside their classroom in the morning hours.
13-year-old Ashraf Igembe sustained serious injuries while
his classmate, Ronitah Namakula survived with mild injuries.
The Deputy Kampala Metropolitan police spokesperson, Luke
Owoyesigyire, said the Nabweru incident happened when a pupil picked an object
on his way to school.
“They played with it until exploded. We discourage children
from picking both metallic and plastic objects they are not aware of,”
A counter terrorism officer, who preferred anonymity, said
several explosives that were buried in the ground during the turbulent times of Uganda are now exposed because of grazing, construction and soil erosion.
He says it is critical to discourage children
and other members of society from touching suspicious objects dug from the ground
or abandoned by unknown people.
“There was a time when I went to visit my friend and I found
people seated around a big object that had been dug from the ground. It was
oval in shape but people had not bothered until I became suspicious. We later
discovered it was an explosive abandoned several years ago,” the CT officer
Citing an example of a grenade that injured children in
Bulange after it was dug out by builders, Enanga, said the public should always
be suspicious of any object that has been removed from the soil.
He re-echoes the argument by the counter terrorism officer
that explosives that are buried underground will often find their way onto the
surface through movements, construction and other human activities.
“You have actually seen instances of children getting involved
in accidents by playing with objects they presume are items they can play with.
We have a challenge of scrap dealers. Some of these weapons are heavy. Scrap
dealers mind about the many kilograms it weighs. Whenever they come across any
object, which they are not sure of, they rush to take it,” Enanga said.
Asked on how the public can identify
explosives, both the CT officer and Enanga, said there is need for vigilance
among members of the public about suspicious objects. “Different manufactures come up with different shapes of
explosives such as oval, triangular and rectangular depending on the
suitability. The first aim of an explosive manufacturer is concealment so they
will come in various shapes,” Enanga said.
On what to do once an abandoned device is
sighted, police say the public should always invite nearby police officers who
would alert technical people.
“Always alert police and they will inform the technical
team from the Bomb Squad. The object will be scrutinized, tested and evaluated.
Because such items cannot be transferred since their vulnerability is not
known, they always detonate them from where they have been found,” CT officer
Enanga argues that the best thing to do when a
person comes upon any object that appears suspicious, he should simply avoid
tampering with it. Leave the place and alert security personnel.
Senior Staff Reporter
Joseph Kato is currently a Master's candidate at Makerere University. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communication from Kampala International University, a Diploma in Journalism and he's also a graduate in Guidance and Counseling.