Masaka residents demand strict laws regulating acid use, access

By Davis Buyondo

Police says the lack of a specific law against the act has hampered their operations

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There has been persistent public outcry over rampant acid attacks in the Greater Masaka region. 

Residents, district leaders and legislators have attributed the attacks to the lack of strict laws regulating the access, sell and use of the deadly chemical. 

This follows the painful death of John Bosco Ssemujju, 39, a prominent car dealer in Masaka. Ssemujju, a resident of Nyendo village in Masaka Municipality was the victim of a gruesome acid attack on January 8. 

Unknown people trailed Ssemujju and poured acid on him upon reaching home his at around 9 pm. He sustained severe burns on the head, face, back and chest. 

He died on February 1 at Kiruddu Hospital in Kampala where he had been referred for extensive treatment by Kitovu Hospital. 

On Sunday, at his burial in Buyinja village, Kasaali town council, residents and district leaders tasked legislators to table strict laws against the misuse of acid so as to curb the growing number of attacks. 

Deborah Kisekulo, a sister to the deceased, appealed for tough enforcement against people who assault others with acid. She added that without a law, many people may fall victim. 

Charles Njuba, Ssemujju's closest friend, argued that sometimes legislators forget to table and discuss very important regulations. He further added that without a strict law to regulate acid access, the number of casualties may keep shooting up. 

Ssemujju's brother, Patrick Kintu Kisekulo, the Kyotera LC5 chairperson, appealed to Police and other security organisations to do whatever is in their powers to hunt down the people who attacked him. 

Although he said Ssemujju's attack might have been politically engineered, other residents claim it was either work-related. 

However, Haruna Kyeyune Kasolo, the Kyotera MP and state minister for micro-finance, attributed the acid attacks to insecurity, joblessness, and lack of education and good parenting among other things. 

Apart from acid attacks, Kasolo said that there are other murders that have been witnessed in the region, which needs strict security measures to investigate and address.

Maria Babirye Kabanda, the Woman MP for Masaka district, castigated the increasing acid attacks, saying that they have done so much to disfigure dozens of people.

As legislators from the region, she added, they are planning to hold talks over regulating use and access to acid in order to protect the public.

Lameck Kigozi, the Southern Police spokesman, said that lack of a specific law against the act has hampered their operations. 

Regulation on acid

Acid violence is an offence punishable in the Penal Code Cap 120. According to Sec.216 (g) perpetrators of acid or burn violence intending to maim are liable to life imprisonment. And should an acid attack committed with "malice aforethought" lead to death, then it is considered murder (Sec.188) and is punishable by death (Sec.189). 

Reena Ntoreinwe, the administrator of End Acid Violence Uganda, an NGO working to end acid violence and empower acid attack survivors, also explained that the Toxic Chemicals Prohibition and Control Act was passed in 2015. 

She added that the organisation's current database has approximately 500 cases.