Sambo (not real name) was our houseboy. He did his chores uncomplainingly and generally behaved well. But Sambo had a game plan. He was casing our bedroom and trying befriend the dog. Once his planning was done, he moved swiftly. In the wee hours of the morning he forced his way in through the bathroom window and probably sprayed us with chloroform. We never heard anything, but Sambo was able to collect a wallet, an iPad, a phone and jewelry from the bedside and sneak off!
He did not report for work that day, but he did eventually turn up. We had the police on this case and the scene of crime officers (SOCO) did their forensic work. We arrested Sambo on his own admission and he found his way to Luzira. We reported dutifully whenever he appeared in court but the state never got ready to prosecute Sambo. Eventually Sambo got bail and is free to pursue his adventures. I am sorry but despite our best efforts at being responsible citizens, you may be the next victim.
The good part of this story is that Sambo didn’t harm us as we slept. Maybe we could have woken up and interrupted his heist. Then we would have been in trouble. Sambo is a low level criminal, operating at the petty end of the trade. Probably just trying to survive through, but I am afraid he may develop into a hardcore criminal.
But spare a thought for those who don’t survive a criminal attack. Social media has been reporting about twelve violent murders in the immediate past, the latest being that of the Assistant Inspector General of Police. These crimes of violence and passion have been with us for a long time. You can recall as many murders and robberies as you wish. There is one common thread in Ugandan crime. On average, criminals get caught and punished in only about 10% of the cases, unless the crimes are high profile.
If you think murder is your number one crime problem, you are wrong. There are probably not more than 1,000 gruesome murders in a year. In a population of 38 million people that accounts for about 0.000026% of the people. The import of that is Uganda is a very safe country. In other words, unless you are associated with the criminal world, or are a controversial person, or are involved in a ‘dispute of passion’ or finances, there is neglible likelihood that you will be targeted.
So we are left with the other types of crime. The type Sambo my houseboy was engaged in, the type that is committed by us powerful people in high places (white collar crime), businessmen and women and you guessed it, the ladies of the night. If you look at the crime continuum, you will observe one thing very quickly. Those at the petty end of the crime spectrum are the ones at risk of being caught. You don’t want to be a chicken thief because the likelihood of being stoned to death is very high. You also don’t want to be a prostitute because once in a while religious hypocrites will pick you up for selling your body.
So where do you want to practice your crime? Your safest bet is in a uniform or office provided by taxpayers’ money. Here you may grow very rich and also get promoted for snitching. There is a caveat though. You have to have some education of sorts so that you can get the job in the first place. You may also need to have connections to the guy doing the recruitment in order to get in. Once you are in, you are probably good for life.
That ladies and gentlemen, is the economics of crime. It does pay to be a criminal, because that is the national ethos we have agreed to.
Professor Samuel Sejjaaka is Country Team Leader at Abacus Business School.