Sobi’s gang is fragmenting, here is why that is bad for you
The Luganda daily Bukedde reports today, that members of fallen criminal kingpin Paddy Sserunjogi aka Sobi’s gang, have started abandoning land holdings and other sites around central Uganda, they had previously been deployed to guard. Along the 21 kilometre-long Northern Bypass, this is visible in increased presence of unruly, mean-tempered youth at the taxi stops.
Gangster Sobi died December 18, in Kibaale LC1, Maddu sub-county in Gomba district in clashes with a rival gang as he commandeered an illegal eviction.
This is the first indication yet of the breakdown of central authority in what was believed to be a criminal network spread across Kampala and its environs. Alternatively, the rapid disintegration could speak to the loose structure that Sobi coordinated but did not totally control.
Whatever the case, the vacuum left by Sobi’s sudden departure is dangerous both from a safety and security perspective. Residents are now exposed to a higher risk of dispersed lone-ranger, or small-cell criminal events. From a law enforcement dimension, more resources will be required to track and contain more dispersed incidents. Their access to routine crime intelligence is also compromised. So, we can anticipate a surge in crime as the criminal underworld gropes for leadership and direction.
The relationship between the demised Sobi and law enforcement agencies is not fully known. What has been visible to the public are the overt acts of impunity in which Sobi and his gang worked with the uniformed services to met out terror on hapless members of the public. This was symptomatic of a flawed approach to law enforcement’s collaboration with crime.
Call it a necessary evil. In general, the world over, law enforcement agencies do work with criminals but not in an official or legitimate capacity. Law enforcement agencies should engage with individuals who may have a criminal background, only in furtherance of their primary role upholding and enforcing the law, to maintain public order, and ensure the safety of the community.
Despite its risks as has been demonstrated by the case of Sobi and Ugandan security; individuals with a history of criminal activity can be useful informants to law enforcement, providing critical information about organized crime, and helping the police to prevent or solve crimes. This practice is controversial, and laden with ethical questions. But it could be the only way of getting access to information that may be difficult or impossible to obtain through other means.
Sometimes also, security agencies may engage with criminal activities to negotiate peaceful resolutions to conflicts within the underworld. This appears to have originally been the reason for law enforcement’s involvement with Sobi. The turn it took however, demonstrates the downside risks.
In the absence of tight legal and ethical oversight framework to ensure that undercover operations, informant relationships and law enforcement actions, remain within the broad boundaries of the law; things can easily get out of hand. Instances of corruption and collusion between law enforcement officers and criminals cannot be ruled out. Sobi appeared to understand this delicate balance very well and used it to frame law enforcement as partners in crime.
That is the enduring legacy Sobi leaves behind; his activities undermined the integrity of the justice system and public confidence in it. These are serious breaches of law enforcement ethics, which Uganda’s security system needs to address, as it rebuilds the architecture of its post-Sobi relations with the criminal underworld.