The recent spate of killings in Uganda has caused an uproar in the public arena and thrown the government in sitting into panic over what to do or say. It is particularly an indictment on President Yoweri Museveni who is revered as the epitome of security in the country and the Greatlakes region at large, by both regional and international actors. The woes of the regime begun particularly with the brutal murder of the high-ranking AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi. This claim, is not oblivious of the insecurity that continues to bedevile the country, but draws attention to the incident that ignited the wrath of the President and led to some of the current security policies in place – the reemergence of the SIM-card registration policy directive in 2017, the banning of hoodies and airtime scratch cards, the installation of cameras and the police registration of sports bikes to mention a few. Other prominent cases include the gruesome murder of State Atmtorney, Joan Kagezi, murder of several sheikhs, Honorable Abiriga, former Buyende District Police Commander Muhamed Kirumira and the 47 (and still counting) women.
The President’s speech on 9th September 2018, most of it reminiscing the good old days (in comparison to other regimes) with little or no regard to the contemporary problems young people are facing has been overly criticized. To the dismay of many Ugandans, the past was overtly regurgitated. The scapegoating of the media, the opposition and the international community as fans in the insecurity flame fronted in the speech bore the characteristics of a tired tactic in the governance book
The lack of empathy to the plight of many Ugandans who are faced with daily unemployment and uncertainty of the future riddled the televised debacle. President Museveni said everything and yet there is nothing to write home about the current situation in Uganda, security or otherwise. Given the polarized situation following the assassination of the outspoken police critic, ASP Kirumira, it was only appropriate for President Museveni to reassure Ugandans of his government’s commitment to peace and security.
The President ought to have commiserated with the general public, spoken on the measures being deployed to avert such security threats now and, in the future, and less on economic trajectory the country has been on since he ascended to power in 1986. Not only would this have calmed an irate populace but also demonstrated initiative by the head of state. To summarize the speech in a few words, the ghost of 1986 reared its ugly head at every opportune moment.
Unfortunately, no concrete security policy measure was communicated in the speech of September 9th, instead the role of the country’s security was transferred to civilians under the methods of “shattering terrorist concealment” of intelligence gathering, detecting crime (drones and cameras) and the role of eye witnesses. No doubt every citizen must play a role in their own security and that of their neighbors, however, the government cannot rely on inexperienced civilians. First because civilians cannot discern a threat from what is not until the danger has passed and second, a civilian’s first instinct is flight (not fight) under threatening circumstances. Incidentally all these options make sense when apprehending suspected criminals in the aftermath of a crime.
The plan to recruit 24,000 Local Defense Unit personnel to beef up security in the greater Kampala area is a stop-gap measure with sustainability implications. The need to strengthen the security apparatus as the key player in ensuring inland peace and security cannot be overstated in these Presidential speeches. Areas for security improvement must include; improved transparency, enhanced capacity, improved welfare, and modern equipment beyond crowd control equipment to create an efficient police force. The relationship and roles between different security groups like the Special Forces Command, Internal Security Organisation, External Security Organisation, flying squad etc. and other para-military groups and how they fit into the overall security agenda should also be interrogated. Given the increase in gun related crime throughout the country, it is important, for accountability purposes to conduct a census of guns in the country and note in whose jurisdiction each type of ammunition falls so that the onus, in case of is crime is on the responsible party to account. More importantly, a deep reflection on what kind of force Uganda needs – one that transcends a sitting government’s agenda or one that acts in the interests of a small ruling class.
Crime of all nature has increased at an alarming rate, yet responsible parties, including President Museveni are leaving citizens to speculate on the matter. No concrete evidence of practical solutions is being communicated to stakeholders which is riling more fear. A speech filled with grand plans of infrastructure and energy development is appreciated, but of what importance are paved roads and efficient energy sources if a population does not feel safe? In his own words, President Museveni once said that, to know the importance of security in a country, try starting a coffee farm in Somalia – I fathom that we will one day stop wondering and experience firsthand the full wrath of this pervasive insecurity if nothing is done.