Uganda: Kampala Uncowed With Bomb Explosions

By James Woods

A view shows smoke and motorcycle taxis near the scene of a blast in Kampala, Uganda November 16, 2021. REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa

Kampala City was rocked by two bomb explosions on Tuesday morning, 16th November 2021,  throwing the entire city into panic. The two loud explosions occurred subsequently in what is believed to be a coordinated attack. One explosion occurred at Central Police Station (CPS), while the next occurred on parliamentary avenue, close to Jubilee Insurance building and the parliament. The explosions have reportedly claimed three lives and left dozens injured. The police in collaboration with the army have been on the scene, having cordoned off the explosion sites earlier.

The first explosion took place next to CPS, at around 10 am local time. Dozens of injured police officers were witnessed being rushed to hospital, indicating the serious implication of the explosion. The second explosion at parliamentary avenue happened a few minutes later, also causing serious injuries on victims. The explosion mostly impacted the building hosting Jubilee Insurance company and set most of the cars parked along the avenue in flames. Passers-by, motorcycle riders, business people and other civilians maneuvering the city streets accounted for majority of the casualties.

The bombings indicate a serious security concern for Uganda. According to CCTV footage files obtained by Uganda Police and local journalists, it is visible that suicide bombers with heavy backpacks were involved. The bombers also seem to have been coordinated since the bombs detonated at specific target locations. Although no terrorist group has come forward to claim responsibility for the two attacks, the Uganda army and police spokespersons indicate that the bombings were acts of terror. In addition, these explosions can be linked to previous bombings witnessed in Uganda, one at a restaurant and the other on a passenger bus. Police intelligence are reportedly working around the clock to investigate the two fatal bombings in Kampala.

The implications of this terrorist attack on the country’s tourism sector is likely to be dire. Previously, the UK urged its citizens to avoid visiting the East African country with prediction trends indicating a possible terrorist attack in Kampala. Onward, the terrorist attack poses a serious threat to the tourism sector, as visitors will have fears of visiting the capital. In that case, quick response from the government and law enforcement is highly recommended. In previous attacks that rocked Kampala, the police made three arrests and have been investigating the involvement of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). ADF is a terrorist group which operates from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has been in conflict with the Museveni administration for several years. The terrorist group is also linked with the Islamic State, although investigations continue to decipher how the two groups coordinate. Nevertheless, more effort is needed to expose the connection of specific terrorist groups to the morning explosions in Kampala.

The response to the tragic event indicates an improvement from previous cases that have rocked the country. Currently, the casualties from the bombings have been transported to various hospitals, amongst them Mulago National Hospital. Shortly after the explosions, it was reported that the hospital had taken in 24 casualties, with several in critical condition. Witnesses at the hospital also reported that victims were being streamed in subsequently, many of them with serious injuries and cuts. The explosions are considered to be amongst the worst that have hit the East African country in the past decade.

The suicide bombings have placed security agencies on high alert. At CPS, the explosion area is under close surveillance, as police investigations continue. The parliament sittings for today were cancelled, as the second scene of explosion is still under surveillance by the army and the police. Traffic in and out of the city is also been monitored by the police in collaboration with military officers. More information is expected from the police and intelligence units deployed in Kampala to figure out who masterminded the attacks, though it is believed to be the ADF. Security has also been beefed up around Kampala, as citizens are being asked to remain calm, avoid panic and be vigilant.

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