Gulu, Uganda | URN | Security authorities in Gulu have ordered members of the self-proclaimed “B13” criminal gang to surrender or risk death.
The gang members have been breaking into shops, snatching handbags and phones as well as assaulting people at night for several months.
The latest victim of the criminal gang is Jino Otti, the LC 1 Chairperson of Industrial Area in Library parish in Layibi Division of Gulu municipality. The gangsters attacked Otti’s residents threatening to lynch him for interfering with their activities.
They also snatched over 700 mobile phones from football fans during the recent Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) Drum match in Gulu.
The activities of the gang have led to a public outcry about the deteriorating security. The army and police have since picked up several of the suspects in security operations.
Over 65 suspects were picked up between June and July this year. They were arraigned in court, which remanded to Gulu Central Prison on charges of threatening violence and conspiracy to commit felony.
Jimmy Patrick Okema, the Aswa River Region Police Spokesperson, says most of the suspects were found in possession of opium and are suspected to be in possession of fire arms.
He explained that security has extended an olive branch to the group members to cease their criminal activities and surrender to police for clemency.
He says those who refuse to surrender will be pursued aggressively and put out of action to restore sanity. At least five suspected gangsters believed to have been terrorizing residents in Gulu town and its outskirts have been killed by mob justice.
Maj. Santo Okot Lapolo, the Gulu Resident District Commissioner likens the B13 gang to a rebel involved in aggravated robbery, rape, assaults, theft and burglaries.
The Rise of ‘B13’ gang
Alex Odongo Okoya, the Tegwana parish LC II Chairperson, says most of the gang members were born in the outskirts of Gulu during the Lord’s Resistance Army – LRA rebel insurgency.
Brenda Ayat, a resident of Gulu town explains that other members of the gang emerged as a result of careless parenting. She notes that several of them were orphaned by the two-decade LRA led revolt in Northern Uganda.
Richard Jomeo, a rights activist blames the rise of the gang on the LRA war. He says most Non-Governmental Organizations – NGOs that were initially helping such vulnerable people pulled out after the expiry of their mandate.
James Nabinson Kidega, the Lamwo RDC, says the same gang also operates in Lamwo. He says the gang members smoke opium and have resorted to crime for survival.
According to Kidega, the gangsters carried out numerous house-break-INS and terrorized residents of Palabek Kal, Gem and Padibe Town Council.
While several residents of Gulu are living in fear, some residents like those in Industrial Area cell in Layibi Divison, have formed a vigilante group to conduct night patrols. Simon Komakech, the leader of the vigilante group, said each family contributes a monthly fee of Shillings 500 to facilitate the group.
Betty Aol Ocan, the Leader of Opposition- LoP in Parliament and Gulu Woman MP has pledged to push for a debate both in the local council and Parliament to devise a solution to rehabilitate the suspects instead of violently cracking them down as criminals.
Aol explained that the affected youth need to be identified to enable them benefit from the numerous government programs like Northern Uganda Social Action Fund – NUSAF, Operation Wealth Creation – OWC and Youth Livelihood Programmes among others.