Two security officers have been nabbed in a sensational crackdown after passengers unleashed a social media war, exposing widespread extortion practices that tarnish the image of uniformed forces and Uganda’s reputation among international travelers.
The victims of these unscrupulous officers were innocent passengers just passing through the airport, according to sources close to the investigation.
Passengers have complained of being inconvenienced by armed counter-terrorism and aviation police personnel, as well as soldiers, who use various tactics to coerce money out of them.
Some of the tricks include begging for water, claiming they need change, or even guilt-tripping passengers about leaving the country without helping them out. Shockingly, these tactics are an embarrassment to Uganda and could potentially pose a threat to national security by allowing criminals to buy their way through.
The airport, which is heavily guarded, has multiple security checkpoints, offering plenty of opportunities for these officers to target passengers.
Undercover operatives trapped the two police officers by capturing them on video while begging for cash from travelers over two days. Now, investigators plan to review weeks or months of CCTV footage to identify other culprits.
Both the police and Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) management confirmed the arrests, sending a clear message to other security personnel engaged in such activities that their days are numbered.
Brig Chris Ddamulira, director of Police Crime Intelligence, has promised to root out these beggars from the forces, with extortion being a likely charge against the accused.
This issue gained attention after Ms. Nada Anderson, chairperson of the Canine Association in Uganda, took to social media to express her shame about the behavior of security personnel at the airport, particularly the soldiers. Her post sparked a heated debate, with many travelers sharing similar experiences.
The Deputy Spokesman of the Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs, Col Deo Akiiki, denied that their personnel have turned into beggars, but the evidence suggests otherwise.
Entebbe International Airport, Uganda’s only international gateway, is a critical facility with national and international interests at stake. Investigators were surprised to learn that some of the suspects invoke “lunch” as a pretext to obtain money, even though on-duty officers are provided with food, and their demand for money for transport is unjustified.
UCAA Spokesman, Mr. Vianney Luggya, assured the public that management takes unprofessional behavior seriously and will continue to deal with those involved accordingly.
This scandal follows previous complaints about extortion at the airport, leading to reforms that included restricting staff from using mobile phones at work. However, these reforms did not seem to have the desired effect.
The latest allegations, including those made by Ms. Anderson, have reignited the issue, with authorities desperately trying to contain the crisis. The Uganda Civil Aviation Authority recorded 26 incidents of employee misconduct between 2020 and January 2023.
In March of this year, police arrested four airport workers, including security officers, for allegedly assisting a Nigerian national in smuggling narcotics worth Shs4 billion into Uganda.