Police have arrested two of their own in connection with Thursday morning incident in which a boda-boda rider set himself on fire inside a traffic police office at Masaka Central Police Station.
Hussein Walugembe, 29, died after setting himself on fire following failed attempts to recover his impounded motorcycle. It is reported that by the time police impounded the motorcycle, it was with Walugembe’s friend identified as Twaha Kaweesi who was accused of flouting curfew guidelines.
Eyewitnesses said, the deceased entered the office at around 8am and tried to negotiate with traffic officers he found inside to give him back the motorcycle which was reportedly impounded on Tuesday.
The suspects, according to Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga are; Sgt Julius Ewalu and Sgt Ibrahim Ssesanga. The latter is the acting officer in charge of traffic in Masaka District.
Mr Enanga said the act of suicide at the police station was evidence of lack of vigilance by some of the police commanders.
“Both police officers acted very negligently and unreasonably in holding the motorcycle without satisfactory explanation to the deceased,” he said in a statement on Frida.
Mr Enanga said both suspects exerted pressure on the deceased to pay a bribe of Shs40,000 to have his motorcycle released.
“It was after he was fully frustrated by the Ag. OC Traffic that he went and bought petrol from Mogas Petrol Station and set himself ablaze. He attempted to grab the officer to die with him, but the officer escaped with minor burns, leaving the victim behind,” he said.
He said the Inspector General of Police, Mr Martins Okoth Ochola has dispatched a task team jointly headed by Director Operations, Mr Edward Ochom, and the Director Traffic and Road Safety, to thoroughly investigate circumstances under which Walugembe committed suicide.
The police spokesperson said their preliminary investigations indicate that Walugembe’s motorcycle was impounded on June 30 by Sgt Ewalu from a fuel filling station under construction, located near Masaka CPS.
Mr Enanga said the deceased had just acquired the motorcycle and since he did not know how to ride, he gave it to Kaweesi.
“He was therefore, not a boda-boda rider as alleged in the media. Walugembe was a casual worker and night watchman at the petrol station,” he said, adding: “He [Walugembe] was also employed by Namanya Rogers who supplied food to suspects in custody, but also performed several odd jobs at Masaka Police Station.”
Mr Enanga said the IGP has also directed two directorates-chief political commissars and legal and human rights to conduct a nationwide special gatekeeping trainings for all police officers, on the basics of recognizing and responding to the warning signs of suicide.