Tracking the level of kidnappings, and crime more generally, is not easy in Uganda.
The government last published annual crime statistics in 2013, but data seen by Reuters from the Flying Squad, an elite police unit, shows an upward trend in kidnappings.
In January and February, the unit recorded eight kidnappings, compared with 24 in the whole of 2017 and three in 2014.
According to a statistics agency report from last year, which sourced its data to the police, there were nearly 4,500 murders in 2015, the last year for which those figures were available. But that was already nearly double levels in 2013.
Livingstone Sewanyana, head of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative in Kampala, said it was no coincidence the government was trying to suppress damaging crime data, given Museveni’s push to stay on as president.
“Of course the state would not be interested in exposing its weaknesses by reporting that there’s a major explosion of crime,” he said. “It’s a worrying trend.”
Police deputy spokesman Onyango said police were not prepared to share homicide data publicly and did not want to comment on data from the statistics agency.
Museveni, a former guerrilla fighter backed by the West as a pillar of stability in the turbulent Great Lakes area, last month sacked his security minister and the chief of police.
He gave no reason for the decision, communicated via Twitter, although local media had reported a feud between the two outgoing officials. Some analysts said the move was more likely to be linked to public criticism of the police’s performance.
Whether the change of personnel changes anything remains to be seen, but for now the police are in the public dock.
Nsereko’s harrowing experience, played out in the full glare of the media, painted the police in a less-than-flattering light.
When he reported his twins missing to the local police station, officers asked for money for fuel for their cars. He said he gave them 490,000 shillings ($133), all that he, a motorcyle repair man, could afford.
Onyango said police were not aware of Nsereko’s accusations.
“Our services are free,” he said. “If it’s true that there’s an officer who asked for money or fuel from a client who had reported a case of kidnap, it will be investigated and he will appear in our disciplinary committee.”
After two days and multiple phone calls from his neighbour demanding a ransom, police had not found Nsereko’s children
They were eventually rescued in part because of a television news report.
A hotel manager in a nearby town grew concerned when two children staying there with a man pointed at the television in the lobby and said that the woman on the screen crying and speaking about a kidnapping was their mother.
The proprietor told guards to keep watch over the man while he called the police, who took him into custody.
(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Ed Cropley and Mike Collett-White)