A Japanese infrastructure consultant who had come to Uganda to assist in improving road junctions and alleviating traffic congestion has sadly passed away after being attacked while stuck in a traffic jam. Okira Ito, who had been collaborating with the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) on road infrastructure projects, succumbed to his injuries after nearly three weeks in a coma at the China-Uganda Friendship Hospital in Naguru, Kampala.
The attack occurred on September 8 at Centenary Park when Ito was ambushed by a gang of criminals. These assailants, dressed in National Resistance Movement (NRM) t-shirts and singing party songs, also stole some of his belongings. The stolen items included a laptop, two mobile phones, and an unspecified amount of money.
Despite Ito’s brave attempt to pursue the attackers after they snatched his bag through a lowered car window, the gang overpowered him, subjected him to physical assault, and then fled the scene. The incident took place in an area not covered by police CCTV cameras.
Following the attack, Ito’s chauffeur rushed him to the hospital for medical attention, and the police were subsequently alerted to the incident. An investigation was launched, leading to the arrest of nine suspects. The police were able to recover some of Ito’s stolen property during a raid on shops in Kisekka Market.
Initially, the suspects faced charges of aggravated robbery. However, the police, in collaboration with the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, are working to amend the charges to include the murder of Ito.
The tragic death of Ito has raised concerns about the safety of foreign experts working on projects in Uganda. A senior official from KCCA expressed worries that such incidents could deter other experts from traveling to Uganda for similar assignments.
In response to Ito’s death, a joint security operation targeting crimes related to traffic jams was conducted in Kampala City.
It’s worth noting that criminal groups in Kampala, commonly referred to as “kuvuga ekigaali” (moving in a group), often engage in various criminal activities during traffic congestion. These activities include stealing car parts, robbing pedestrians, and attacking individuals who intervene to prevent their crimes. Unfortunately, past incidents, like the attack on James Kakooza, a city councillor, have gone unsolved, underscoring the challenges faced in combating such criminal groups.