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Police Advises on Explosives

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 said.

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 suffocation.

“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 unknowingly.

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,” Owoyesigyire said. 

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 recollects.

   

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 said.

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.