Security is usually provided by the government through various security agencies and other licensed private security agencies, but Mbarara has a clandestine security group controlled by street children.
Street children are not recognized by the government and are not legally allowed to provide security, but residents hire them for around 5,000 shillings to provide night security services.
Musa Matov, a resident of Saveya Sel in Nyamitubola, Mbarara’s northern district, says he has enjoyed guarding street children for two years.
“I used to find them around the Total Gas Station across from the Amajenbe Gente Roundabout and give them money to buy food and other goodies. insisted, ‘I have to escort you home,'” Matov said.
He says they used to walk with him nearly a kilometer to his house almost every day.
“They occasionally asked me if I could lend them money to protect my home and my people, but I declined,” he added.
Mr. Matov says he changed the route leading to his home to fend off them after realizing they could commit crimes and that members of the community could associate them with him.
Harriet Assassira, who sells nightly groceries across from Mbarara Bus Park, says she has enjoyed the street children’s guard service for a year.
“At first they got into trouble and I was forced to give them food for free. But we became friends and now she escorts me home after work, over a kilometer from where I work,” she says.
“I had a boyfriend who later got furious with me. They asked me who did this and they gave him a lesson,” she adds.
Aggrey Kizito, who runs a kiosk on Markhansing Street, said street children are also providing safety for sex workers working in the corridors of Mbarara City High Street.
“At night most of these hallways and bars you see here are filled with sex workers, who work alongside street children to ensure their safety. Or if you try to assault her, you face their wrath,” he says.
However, he adds that it is sometimes used to rob clients after sex workers realize they have a lot of money.
One sex worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she works for street children’s safety and protection from delinquents.
“Some men cheat us. increase.
She said there were no special rewards for their services, adding that she might buy cigarettes or give money to the children depending on how productive they were that night.
Street children ensure the safety of businessmen on Victor Bhuwana Road at night. Some business establishments are said to be guarded by street children at night.
“This is a high-crime area that hides many criminals from Kajogo and Biafra. You cannot operate a business here without security, but it is very difficult to hire private security guards and security guards. ,” says Harriet Narooza, who owns the shop on Victor Bwana Road.
“I can only give these street children less than 50,000 shiso per month. My store has never been broken into,” she adds.
Julius Kanyankore, who lives in Biafra, Kakiika State, north of Mbarara, said some street children were hired to carry out illegal activities such as eviction and reprisal missions.
“We have witnessed many situations where these street children are hired for havoc. ’ he says.
Ambrose Mweshige, Defense Minister of Kakiika, North District of Mbarara City, said: Always sober, most of them use drugs. ”
Street children, called street masters, say they are not criminals.
“I am in charge of this badgo (children) and there are 20 of them. be punished.
“If there are people who need protection, we have enough manpower and training.
According to Masters, they earn between 50,000 and 80,000 shillings per day, but other activities such as garbage collection and other chores are also included.
Samson Kasasila, a spokesperson for the Luwiji Regional Police, acknowledged the growing number of street children in Mbarara but said he was unaware that they were providing security services.
“First of all, these are minors, and it is a crime to employ minors, but most of these employed street children seem to be involved in illegal activities. Why don’t you hire people who are smart and approach legally recognized security groups?” he says.
Kasasira said street children have become a threat to the city, accusing them of raping women and robbing people of their belongings.
But some victims have not reported the incident to the police, he said.
“There are no definitive statistics on the crimes committed by street children because when they commit a crime they are arrested like any other criminal. It remains unreported by victims,” he adds.
Mbarara Mayor Robert Mugabe Kakibezi said they do not have a resettlement camp.
“We have been arresting these street children, but we have no redemption camps, so we have decided to release them. “Sometimes it is done,” says Mugabe.
He added that using street children for security is illegal and that he is cooperating with police to arrest those involved.
The Soul of Hope Ministry, a non-governmental organization that cares for street children in Mbarara, estimates there are more than 400 street children in the city.
“We are constantly moving on the streets, interacting with them, taking some off the streets, while others are hesitant to leave because of incentives given by community members,” said Soul of Moses Mwine Muganzi, Program Coordinator for Hope Ministries, said.