Tuesday March 4 2014

Shoot-out raises more questions

By Editorial

A bizarre incident involving a shoot-out among soldiers of the Special Forces Command (SFC) on Saturday night in State House comes as a rude surprise. In the aftershock, two soldiers were left dead.

Many Ugandans have been led to believe that the SFC soldiers are the most professional, well-motivated and highly trained. Many Ugandans believed, and rightly so, that State House was the safest place to be. However, the shoot-out now negates this impression.

We welcome reports that the army will investigate circumstances under which the guards turned guns on themselves. Nevertheless, this transgression is not helped by the preliminary attribution of alcohol or drug influence as the possible causes of the State House melee.

According to the SFC spokesperson, Maj Chris Magezi, the soldier accused of shooting his colleague dead was suspected to have been drunk or under the influence of drugs. This will be absurd should it turn out to be true.

A few questions arise. For instance, is drug and alcohol abuse a big problem in the SFC ranks? Has the accused soldier been previously reported to have abused drugs or alcohol? If so, what was done about it?

Maj Magezi says an inquiry is underway to come with measures to avert the recurrence of such incidents. This is a step in the right direction. However, the net should be spread to cover the national army, police and other security outfits some of whose errant operatives have variously been cited in wanton opening of fire at citizens.

While such inquiries often focus on prescribing punishments against the culprits, the relevant authorities should this time get interested in finding the cause(s) of soldiers’ extra judicial actions. It is possible that there are peculiar causal stimuli forcing some soldiers to aim their guns at the wrong target.

Pertinent issues such as meagre pay, poor living conditions, delayed promotion, lack of training, exhaustion, hopelessness, etc, should not be discounted in this regard.