The U.S. and French ambassadors joined dozens of Ugandan demonstrators in Kampala on Saturday to protest against what they say is rising violence against women, including murder, rape and kidnapping for ransom.
A flurry of unsolved killings and kidnappings has eroded Ugandans’ trust in the security forces. Since early last year the bodies of more than 20 women have been dumped on roadsides in Kampala.
The failure of police to issue an annual crime report since 2013 has fueled suspicion they are trying to conceal the scale of the problem.
Protesters wore black T-shirts and carried posters bearing the names and ages of women who had been raped and killed in cases that remain unsolved.
“I want this march to raise awareness about what’s going on,” Stephanie Rivoal, French ambassador to Uganda, told reporters at the march.
“When women are killed, sometimes they don’t attract the same attention as when men are killed. I am here to make a statement that women’s lives matter in the same way as men’s lives,” she said.
Critics say the police devote most of their resources and attention to thwarting opponents of Uganda’s long-serving President Yoweri Museveni instead of
detecting and deterring crimes against women.
In a particularly high-profile case, Susan Magara, a daughter of a wealthy businessman, was kidnapped in February in Kampala. Her body was found two weeks later, even after the kidnappers had been paid a ransom, according to local media.
In a speech this month, Museveni accused some members of the security forces of conniving with criminals and announced measures including the collection of DNA from all Ugandans to help curb surging crime in the East African nation.
Police spokesman Patrick Onyango said Saturday’s march was unnecessary.
“I think the organizers want to harvest political capital, because all crimes that they talking about where women victims have been involved … we have investigated them and arrested perpetrators,” Onyango said.