While addressing mourners at the late Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi’s home, President Museveni made remarks which unsettled many Ugandans.
Whereas Mr Museveni meant well in trying to offer solutions to the now rampant killings by armed men who use motorcycles as a means of transport, a some of his statements watered down what should have been good counsel from the head of state. For instance, the President got it wrong when he said public servants – whom he said were just one per cent of the whole population – were taking away money meant for security cameras and other priorities.
“These people who are dying are being killed by public servants… We don’t have money to build air bases for our fighter jets because the money has been taken by salaries… This selfishness must stop because you are undermining our success,” he said.
Mr President, we think the problem is in what you did not say which is corruption. The grand-scale theft of public funds by public officials at all levels is what should be checked and not the salaries of public servants.
A 2005 World Bank report indicated that Uganda was losing $300m to corruption every year. And early this year, a Transparency International Uganda report put Uganda among the top 25 countries with escalating corruption levels in the world.
If we stamp out corruption, we will pay salaries and buy cameras without a problem.
The second issue which unsettled many is when the President asked armed people to “sort out issues” with people they suspect to be wrong elements.
“Now that you know that they are using these [motorcycles], you be alert especially if you are armed. When you see somebody trying to follow you [on] a boda boda, stop the car and get out and sort out issues with him,” he said.
Whereas the President was right in urging Ugandans to be vigilant, he did not package his point in the right way.
For example, how will the public ensure that only “suspicious” elements are the ones that are dealt with?
A recent investigative story by this newspaper indicated that there were about 19,000 guns in the hands of private individuals. That means that the number of people able to deal with “suspicious” people is definitely high. Such remarks therefore cannot be taken lightly.
The right way forward is what Mr Museveni asked of the police chief, Gen Kale Kayihura - to rid his house of criminals.