Editorial

Tighten controls on gun custody

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By Editorial

Posted  Saturday, December 28   2013 at  02:00

In Summary

Such incidents were rare in the olden days of the NRA/UPDF. This was partly because there were tight controls and limited access to arms by soldiers. Unless it was war time, soldiers would not be allowed to move or stay with guns. All arms would be kept in the armoury.

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The UPDF needs to clean up its house. The UPDF and its predecessor (NRA) have been widely viewed as probably the most disciplined army in Uganda’s history because of its respect for and protection of civilians.

But the incidents that have unfolded over the years are making Ugandans rethink on the UPDF’s discipline. Many civilians have been shot dead and or wounded by soldiers.

In March 2006, a UPDF officer quarrelled with a police officer in a pub in Bukoto, a Kampala suburb, went home and returned with a gun. He shot the police officer and another person dead. In 2012, a soldier left his guard post in Luzira with a gun and shot three civilians dead after a quarrel.

In March this year, another irate soldier left his guard post at Bombo army barracks, went to a pub in a nearby town and killed 10 people. There have been many similar incidents across the country and we cannot list all of them. But such incidents are growing steadily. The latest being the Kinawataka tragedy in Nakawa Division last weekend, when a soldier attached to the nearby Mbuya military barracks killed three people in a bar after a quarrel with his female companion. The trigger-happy soldier went back to the barracks, returned with a gun and shot her dead together with her child and another person.

Such incidents were rare in the olden days of the NRA/UPDF. This was partly because there were tight controls and limited access to arms by soldiers. Unless it was war time, soldiers would not be allowed to move or stay with guns. All arms would be kept in the armoury. Soldiers could only access their guns under exceptional circumstances and upon approval by their superiors.

Today, it appears the UPDF has relaxed its control measures and soldiers have easy access to arms or stay with guns in their houses. That is why in almost all these shooting incidents, a solider runs back to his house and picks up a gun.

UPDF should resume the checks and even make them tighter to curb this needless loss of lives. The UPDF is fast losing its integrity and the loss of lives is immeasurable.