Police have initiated a search for 20 children who were reported missing by their parents following the Martyr’s Day celebrations at Namugongo shrines on Saturday. Caroline Kushemererwa, the head of the Child and Family Protection Unit in the Kampala Metropolitan Policing area, said that most of the cases were reported at the Catholic Martyr’s shrines.
Kushemererwa explained that the missing children had mostly come to the event with their grandparents. There were also cases of babies being left unattended by their mothers for several hours, but eventually, the mothers returned to them. One of the abandoned babies was just nine months old, with the mother returning at 11 pm.
A total of 58 cases of missing children were recorded by the Police, Red Cross, and other childcare organizations. By the end of the mass at the Catholic shrines, 16 children were still unclaimed by their parents. In addition to children, at least four adults were reported missing by their relatives.
“This year we have heard so many cases of missing children compared to last year. Last year we had a total of 52 cases but this time we had 58. We kept the children in the night and we provided blankets for them,” Kushemererwa said. The unclaimed children were kept at the shrines overnight while authorities waited for their parents or relatives to come forward.
In a separate report, Patrick Onyango, the Kampala Metropolitan police spokesperson, revealed that 140 suspects were arrested for stealing from pilgrims. They were detained by Kira Division Police. The arrests were made as overt police teams caught individuals stealing from sleeping pilgrims, particularly during the night hours.
Some attempted thefts occurred while victims were in queues but were thwarted by the overt teams. “We recorded a total of 107 cases reported by the pilgrims. 62 were phone thefts at the Catholic venue. 35 others were of general theft, one case was of impersonation and dealing in narcotics,” Onyango said.
On a positive note, unlike the previous year when water collection led to chaotic situations, the police marine force took control early on and managed the crowds effectively at the Anglican shrines, which experienced fewer theft cases compared to the Catholic shrines.