By Markson Omagor
The Commissioner General of Uganda Prisons has revealed interesting facts about the infamous Singila Prison break in Moroto mid this year.
Speaking on a TV show that hosted Security chiefs in the country yesterday 11th December 2020, Dr. Johnson Byabashaija said they have been able to recapture 46 inmates that escaped.
“Out of the 224, escapees, we have in a joint military operation recaptured 46. We shall keep on recapturing them because they are in the community, they have nowhere to go,” Dr. Byabashaija said.
The gloomy part of the revelation is that only one rifle has been recovered to date. The escapees who broke into the armory ran away with 14 guns. The Commissioner General’s update means 13 guns are still with the escapees most of whom were known hardcore criminals, including cattle rustlers.
Dr. Byabashaija also said that out of the 46 recaptured escapees, 3 were rearrested last week.
12 of these prisoners were killed in gunfire exchange in what security officers call putting out of action. When added up, 58 prisoners have been rearrested dead or alive. 166 escapees are still at large with the 13 rifles.
The Commissioner General revealed too, that it was the Covid-19 scare in the facility that prompted the prisoners to breakout for fear of dying inside the facility.
However, a week after the break, Dr. Byabashaija visited Singila prison and noted that the break was simplified by weaknesses in the security system.
“We had some errors inside the prison and our gatekeeper was not adequately protected, a structural deficiency. I have instructed my Assistant Commissioner In charge of security to deal with it very very quickly. We must protect the gatekeeper with a cage such that prisoners don’t get access to him. I have directed him to place central boxes or what we call watch towers. If we had watch towers here, of course we wouldn’t have had that problem – you shoot directly at the prisons from the watch towers and we’re going to make a double fence.” He said then.
On the covid 19 update in Ugandan prisons, Dr. Byabashaija said they have over 900 prisoners who have tested positive. He hastened to add that, none of those has succumbed to the deadly virus.
“We are lucky that none of our prisoners has died of Covid-19, you should also note that the treatment centers have a better diet than other prisons. We mix mukene (silver fish) in their beans and this seems to have worked,” he revealed.
On September 16, this year the inmates escaped with 14 guns, 15 magazines and 480 rounds of ammunition after overpowering prisons staff.
One UPDF soldier was killed in a shootout with the inmates as security operatives tried to re-arrest the escapees.
Only 20 of the escapees were serving their sentences while 204 of them were on remand awaiting trial for different criminal offenses.
Government said the prisoners took advantage of the “low morale” by the prison warders following the outbreak of Cholera and Covid-19 in the prison.
At the time of the prison break, there were a total of 687 inmates of whom 236 were convicts whereas 451 were on remand.
Out of the 20 convicts, four were serving sentences for murder, four for rape and three for theft.
Seventy eight of those who were on remand had been committed by the low courts for trial in the High Court for the capital offenses they had allegedly committed.