By Olivier Mukaaya
Mbale City residents are now living in fear as Street kids take over the town and set up three offices where they coordinate their criminal activities.
A simple survey in Mbale City will show a big number of street kids roaming the streets. The kids do not only roam the streets but steal from the public especially phones, hand bags and sometimes money.
The situation has been made worse by the fact that these kids now have three offices where they coordinate their criminal activities. It is in these offices that their bosses sit and guide them on what and how to steal.
This reporter carried out an investigation and found out that the busiest office is on Republic Street on a corridor just adjacent to BAM Cosmetics shop. Inside this office sit coordinators who receive mostly stolen phones which they forward to one famous phone repairer (whom we shall not name for legal reasons) to remove serial numbers before they are sold in open market as second hand.
The other two offices are in Namakwekwe Estates and Half London.
According to Nina Nabuduwa, a victim and a vendor at the Taxi Park in Mbale City, since the street kids opened their own offices, theft of phones is on the increase.
She adds that when they steal people’s phones, they take them to their illegal office where they change the serial numbers of the phones and later sell them.
“I always see young street kids going in with nice phones and after you see other adult street kids asking if you can buy a phone and then you wonder where they get these nice phones from,” Nabuduwa said.
Fatuma Nakasi, another City resident told this reporter that the street kids are not working in isolation but with some elements in the business community.
“It is these people who sell them the phone housings, which they use to change the stolen phones, which they sell later to people around,” she said.
She further blamed police and Mbale city authorities for failing to do something when street kids’ cases are reported to them.
“We report about street kids robbing people on these streets but they don’t do anything and now numbers of street kids are increasing and theft is also going up,” Fatuma said.
Ivan Masaba a boda boda rider said that the closure of CRO was one of the biggest problems because the street kids had a place they called a home. Masaba said the street kids now don’t have a common place of meeting which he says must have led the street kids to open up offices to keep themselves together.
“Am told they conduct their meetings in those offices, and also carry out their businesses in there,” Masaba said.
John Mabonga, a businessman on Naboa Road says that the increasing number of street children on the streets of Mbale city has become a threat to their businesses.
He said that the street kids have started grabbing things they sell like bread, shoes, and clothes, which affects their businesses.
“Nowadays the street kids no longer fear anyone, when they steal something from you it is very had to run after them because they are very many, if you try to get one, they all jump on you,” Mabonga lamented.
Ms Rosette Kutegeka, another City resident also raised her concern saying many women are being robbed and sexually abused by the street kids and no one comes to their help.
She further said that many times people around just look on while women are being robbed which makes her even fear to move on Mbale streets.
“I have seen women being sexually abused and robbed by these street children and it’s so sad that people just look on instead of helping the victims,”Kutegeka said.
Abdu Kato, a bags’ seller on Naboa road called upon authorities to wake up before the street children take over Mbale City.
“Nowadays they even have offices in Mbale and bosses who lead them, very soon this city will become a dangerous city to live in if the authorities don’t wake up to do something about this situation,” he said.
Rogers Taitika, the Elgon region spokesperson confirmed the incidence and said they have registered over 30 cases concerning street children.
“Between the month of January and now, we have registered 11 simple robbery cases and 10 phone theft and this happened around Mbale Clock Tower during rush hours towards curfew time,” he said.
He added; “we have so far tracked 5 using our processes and have been prosecuted in court, we have also pointed out danger points like Nabuyonga Rise, Abrah Supermarket, Cathedral Avenue and Clock Tower.”
He urged people to stop buying from second hand shops, which sell theft related items.
He blamed parents for failing to take responsibility of their own children and mistreating them while at home.
Sarah Kalenda, Probation Officer Mbale City said there are over 200 street children today.
“We managed to settle over 130 street children in Namakwekwe rehabilitation centre last year, unfortunately most of them escaped and returned back to the streets, however after reopening of schools the remaining ones were taken by child care organizations which offer them home schooling,” she said.
Among this organizations are Jenga CDO in Indian quarters, Subi in industrial division, and Dewa in Nakaloke.
“Gathering all these children in one place wasn’t easy because we had the police with us but still children would escape and return to streets because they find it more comfortable,” she added.
She added; “those who escaped have influenced others to go back to the streets hence increase in the number of street children.”
Speaking to one of the dealers, he revealed that there is a group of youths who steal phones from people and after take them to another group that removes the serial numbers to unable them sell the phones.
He confirmed that it is the street kids who steal these phones and take to them to look for market.
This dealer also identified this famous phone repairer “C**” as the master dealer of stolen phones in Mbale City.
“Streets kids do steal the phones and they bring them to us to sell for them because we do have market, but we also have a group which first removes the serial number before they go on sale.”
“We have many places one on republic, half London and Namakwekwe where the deals take place.