The grisly murder of Kaweesi on March 17 was as shocking as it was bold
WINDING UP. Uganda is not short of incredible drama – happy and sad – but there are some events that happened this year that will take a long time to recede in the national psyche. We are still reeling from their after-effects, as GILLIAN NANTUME writes.
Changing Constitutions to suit the needs of sitting presidents is nothing new in Africa but when some MPs began pushing for this at the beginning of the year, no one really believed them. But then, there is no smoke without fire. In September, this fire culminated in a rare fist fight in the August House that made international news, more for the fighting stance of some MPs than the reason behind the fight.
This roguish behaviour was further compounded by the letter the Speaker sent to the President asking for the identity and origin of the men in suits who invaded Parliament, even though the IGP stated that he was the one who sent in the men. Uganda can be that confusing to the uninitiated because no one knows what became of that inquiry.
This debate has become so polarising that you cannot risk walking down the streets of downtown Kampala on certain days wearing red or yellow. The colour red had a comeback after being relegated to history with the UPC party. There is also the unresolved issue of grenades thrown into the compounds of MPs who were most vocal against the amendment of the Constitution.
AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi shot dead
The grisly murder of Kaweesi on March 17 was as shocking as it was bold. Maybe the persistent drizzle that morning was a forerunner of the things to come. By 9.45am, the entire nation was paralysed, and remained so for months. Kaweesi had seemed invincible – an almost larger than life figure. Then, suddenly, he was gone, shot in the street with his body guard and driver.
Two weeks earlier, on March 2, this newspaper had reported that a 2016 crime report by the Flying Squad Unit had indicated that high caliber guns, especially SMGs such as IMI Uzi and Micro Uzi, were in the hands of common criminals. Previously, these guns were the preserve of the military and specialised police units. Then, in January the IGP had also spoken about the mafia who had infiltrated the security agencies.
All of a sudden, the people responsible for VVIP security were attaching a number of bodyguards to their charges, what with the president telling people at the vigil to deal decisively with any suspicious characters following them. This murder just went to prove that anyone – not only Muslim clerics – is vulnerable.
Prof Lawrence Mukiibi’s offspring
While we were still warming to the specter of a white funeral after Prof Mukiibi died on March 28, we were in for the shock of our lives. When it was time for the mourners to be shown the deceased’s children, about 30 people – middle aged, young, teenage, toddlers, and babies – showed up wearing the traditional bark cloth belt that only orphans of the deceased can wear at a burial.
Social media jokes aside, how had this educationist with many schools to his name managed to father so many children? About 15 of the children who turned up at the burial were aged between six months and six years. For weeks, media was busy with story claims from women claiming to have the late professor’s children. His daughter eventually made a call for all to come forward and be subjected to a DNA test.
The Nalufenya craze
As Nalufenya detention centre quickly became a place of horror, the pain from the aftermath of Kaweesi’s murder intensified as more and more suspects appeared in court with fresh wounds. Kamwenge Town Council Mayor Geoffrey Byamukama, one of the suspects in that investigation, had pictures of him nursing deep septic wounds on his knees and ankles allegedly obtained at Nalufenya.
And then, in late May, a seven-months-old baby was found in the cells. Justine Nakakeeto, the only female suspect at Nalufenya at the time, had been picked up from her bar in Kikoni with her baby, accused of recruiting youths into criminal gangs. According to the Uganda Human Rights Commission, Nakakeeto was blocked from breastfeeding her baby during interrogation. The rocket science behind this was that as soon as Nakakeeto felt the overwhelming and painful need to breastfeed, she would automatically confess to her involvement with a criminal gang.
Six billion handshake
If you are still waiting for the government to do something about the runaway corruption, then you were probably blown away by this scandal that opened the year on January 4. Some people participated in winning some court case concerning Uganda’s mysterious oil (or is it oil fields?) and for that they were rewarded heavily by the president. In his view, those people had won an international war, amidst pressure, challenges, and temptations.
The support staff (including secretaries, drivers, and tea girls) also benefited from the crumbs that fell off the table of this banquet. The idea was that these people should be rewarded to leave a legacy to remind them and their offspring of their contribution to the nation. Justice Steven Kavuma came up with a court order that was intended to stop all debate on the presidential handshake. Naturally, the court order was relegated to the dung heap of history. Parliament ended up ordering the beneficiaries to refund the money, but no one followed up on those refunds.
Landslide win for ghetto president
By 5pm on June 29, the jubilation countrywide was beginning. It seemed that almost every young person was rooting for Bobi Wine, not only the voters in Kyadondo East. As a musician he had been loved, especially when he began his ‘edutainment’. In the beginning of the race, he had been the underdog, though, the political novice, whom pundits under looked. But then, as the campaigns evolved, he seemed to represent so many things to different people, kind of like the rain that washes away the sorrow of a drought. His performance in Parliament, though, leaves a lot to be desired, but then, we were all once young, weren’t we? And not all of us can be incredibly articulate. The downside of his win is that it has unleashed all manner of charlatans on the voting populace. Suddenly, everyone thinks that if Bobi Wine could become Hon Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, so can they.
Kissing Mbonye shoes
Early September Mbonye upped a king-subject game. Men and women, who give all appearances of being sane after honouring the prophet with gifts, knelt before him and kissed his shoes. Perhaps the most significant thing about these shoe kissers was that the occasion occurred at the Kololo Independence Grounds. Talk about symbolically giving up our intellectual independence unknowingly. These actions took the notch higher in the competitive field of pastoring Kampala’s impressionable ‘sheep’. Mbonye is a trailblazer. Because of his expensive lifestyle, pastors and preachers who wear shabby suits and preach ordinary sermons are fast becoming a thing of the past.
Fr Kibuuka defies the Catholic Church
Call him whatever you want to, the now Bishop Jacinto Kibuuka is bold. Where other priests have bowed down to pressure and returned to the fold, he has forged ahead and even managed to get himself consecrated on November 12 as the first bishop of the Antiochian Central and Eastern Orthodox Church. Some of the faithful tried to take him to court on accounts of him verbally discrediting the leaders of the Catholic Church but at the end of the day, we are all entitled to freedom of speech and association. Interestingly, high ranking ministers from the central government graced the occasion of his enthronement and assured him of their full support.
Entebbe and Nansana women murders
A serial killer in Africa is a strange phenomenon because unlike in the Western world, in our extended family and cultural setting we easily absorb the kind of mental issues that would drive people to destruction. This is not to say that the rate of murders has not gone up in the recent months. The murder of these unfortunate women struck a chill down the spine of residents of Wakiso District perhaps because of the impunity with which they were committed.
It did not matter that there were night curfews and police patrol trucks driving all over the place. The bodies just kept turning up in the same locality - Katabi – even after the IGP and Security minister pitched camp in the area.
Until on October 1, the President visited Katabi and spoke to relatives of some of the victims and the residents. He assured them that police had been using backward methods to track down the killers but now the security forces were going to use new technology such as DNA to investigate the crimes. He also made the everlasting promise of installing CCTV cameras in major cities to ease police work. We are still waiting on that promise.
CMI arresting police
There was a time, in the recent past, when some police officers had become a law unto themselves. Then, in October, like a ray of lightning out of a blue sky, police officers were being arrested left, right, and centre. The public was euphoric. Another arrest and we would have taken to the streets, dancing and handing out flowers to the armed forces. When the then police spokesperson came out to say the police did not know why the army was arresting its officers, the internet almost broke with civilians advising them to remain calm as the army carried out its investigations.
Word is that the police officers are really being held on a holding charge and the real reason behind their arrest is something else.