Shiny new German cars, expensive wines and a social calendar with a hedonistic agenda may seem like more a menu out of the Riviera but for some of Kampala’s trendsetters- it’s nothing new.
In fact the “good life” say security experts, in the wake of several high profile homicides, is making the rich and powerful vulnerable.
At least this is what I found working on a story about the deaths of the children of important people last week.
Last year- the son of former Finance Minister Richard Kaijuka died in what the family believes was poisoning. However accounts of the evening before the tragedy, and that of friends say Mugabe Kaijuka was a party animal and the jury is out on how this may have affected his last days.
In an interview with me Mr. Kaijuka said he was hopeful that the police would get to the bottom of the case.
Police sources now say life style choices of the children of some of Kampala’s powerful families is bringing them directly into harm’s way.
The Uganda police have open cases in at least four or more cases of homicide involving the death of the son of the Vice President, the State House Comptroller and confidant to the President, the junior minister for Agriculture among others.
No one has been charged and while the cases are being investigated separately- the variable that the deceased had powerful parents is posing the question loudly- on whether the homicides are related to the underlying privilege.
In various interviews security experts say the possibility of a criminal enterprise cannot be excluded; that is that perhaps there is some logic to the deaths.
“Just like the iron bar and increasing [arsons] there seems to be a correlation of some sort” said Moses Matsiko, proprietor of Pinnacle Security, a security company.
According to Matsiko it may be well advised that, in the event that some of the homicides are targeted act, some adjustment to is made [to the lifestyle] of the affected class.
However it seems to be the consensus that it is privilege that is “killing”.
In February, Kampala woke up to a horrific death of Brenda Karamuzi whose body was recovered in septic tank in the upscale Muyenga suburb.
The case is still under investigation but the wealthy background of her boyfriend turned prime suspect in her death- Mr. Thomas Nkurujira has become a fixture in the case.
Alcohol and drug [over]use had been cited in the accounts of friends in his circle. In Kampala’s cluster of upper market hangouts, observers point out, having a lot of money means one soon runs out of amusements.
Indeed the party crowd is observably a nomadic crowd- seeking one new spot after another.
This has made house parties – where anything goes- an alternative to bars and pubs according to an earlier investigation by Sunday Monitor.
In hostels- the big bash- where a rich girl or boy throws a party where drinks are free is another trend.
Another case the police are investigating – the death of Phillip Muhinda- who fell to his death at a hostel say friends happened in the back drop of hostel parties.
“Everyone wants to say I attended so and so’s party which was better than the rest and he had the best drinks and girls. It’s a competition” said one source whose brother attended a party with the late Muhinda.
The easy availability of drugs like cocaine- and other happy cocktails has also been acknowledged by the police.
Indeed the youth and privilege of some of the more public cases go hand in hand.
In all the most visible cases the deaths occurred to individuals below the age of 35. The youthfulness of the victims of crime is not unusual for Uganda which has a large proportion of young people in its population.
However the rise of so called class crimes appears destined to stay. In the financial sector [especially banking] experts point to peer pressure as driving fraud.
“They [ young people] want to drive the latest cars, wear the latest clothes, go on the best holidays and show it all off” said one investigator.
Police annual crimes report show crime is growing in urban settings related to attempted economic gain.
Besides the phenomenal rise in corruption cases [ by 106% in the 2009 Police Crime Report], the police now has a full desk on human sacrifice [ related to wealth seeking], Land [ reflective of tensions over property] and Narcotics and Forensics[ there is a very high number of deaths by poisoning]
But that is at the bottom of the pyramid.
At the top of the social pyramid, if the foregoing discussion is anything to go by, there are crimes which come out of the hedonistic enterprise of the wealthy and their children.
And it’s a sign of something else too- the widening gap between the wealthy- largely state-based class- and the rest.