Regulate acid use to stop attacks
Acid violence or acid attacks continue to rise in Uganda, and unfortunately not much attention has been focused on vices. More than 400 cases of acid attacks have been known/reported in the past 10 years, the effect of which has been severe, leaving lifelong scars, physical distortion, and in some cases permanent disability, including blindness, immobility and death.
Many survivors spend years in the hospital after the attack, undergoing extensive and expensive treatment and surgery. About 84 percent of incidents involve conflicts in romantic relationships, 10 percent with business conflicts, three percent with property conflicts and three percent with other reasons.
Seventy percent of the victims are female while 30 percent are men. These attacks continue to grow rapidly, and if we do not take deliberate action, this illegible act will take many lives.
The government has a responsibility to protect its citizens and therefore should be seen as interested not only in discussions but also in acting together with various stakeholders to ensure that this vice is curbed.
There are several factors contributing to the increase in the number of acid attacks that we need to objectively evaluate and develop means to mitigate the same
Acid is easily accessible and cheap. Several reports indicate that it is only possible to buy a liter of acid at Shs3,000 at various locations and stores that are rarely licensed and controlled, it is an open market!
Several victims talked about their trials, and what is common in all their stories is that they could not easily and quickly recognize that their tormentors had acid on them, since most criminals use disguised containers to ferry a deadly chemical. An unregulated large supply of acid, especially from car batteries, exacerbated this defect.
Be that as it may, we have weak laws that regulate the availability and purchase of acid on the market. Acid is readily available because suppliers are not regulated, licensed and, in addition, are not controlled. It becomes difficult to track the source of the purchased acid due to the lack of adequate regulations for the sale of the same. Just like with gasoline, there were rules prohibiting the purchase of gasoline in gerricans, given its flammability, but most importantly, try to curb acts of arson. This was not well implemented due to the reluctance of the authorities and thus had an indirect impact on the acid trade in all kinds of containers.
Just as the government passed the Toxic Chemicals and Prohibition Act in 2016, the vice is still delayed. The main purpose of the Act was to domesticate the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, as well as less resolution of issues of monitoring and regulation of the most common acid-sulfuric acid.
The law doesn't even list sulfuric acid, which is publicly available and used as a “toxic chemical,” making the fight against acid attacks almost in limbo. The law also created a National Chemicals Regulatory Authority authorized to create a register of manufacturers, importers, exporters, brokers and traders of planned and other toxic chemicals, as well as to regulate the production, import and transfer of toxic chemicals. I have not seen or heard of this authority.
I'm not sure it exists and performs its functions. Therefore, with the current legislative framework, it is difficult to suppress the trade in acid, which is too random and at the same time has serious consequences. Just as the perpetrators have been charged under the Penal Code Act for crimes such as grievous bodily harm, unintentional murder, and murder, the scope is limited to the ultimate perpetrator only. It is necessary to make the laws reliable so that the entire chain from supply to the end user / violator is arrested. Arresting an acid source will go a long way in curbing vice.
Mr. Michael Aboneka is a partner at Thomas & Michael Advocates and a director of Envirogreen Trust Ltd.