President Yoweri Museveni has urged Ugandans to be more vigilant and cautious about their personal security.
According to him, the unknown assailants who killed Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga and his brother Saidi Buga in Kawanda Wakiso District were seen lingering near his home before the shooting.
“I call upon Ugandans to be more vigilant. For instance, [Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim] Abiriga’s killers came and lingered in that area before shooting him. In the case of Kaweesi, it was the same story,” he said.
Kampala. President Museveni yesterday summoned his top security chiefs for an urgent meeting for the second time in four days at State House Entebbe to discuss the deteriorating security situation in the country.
According to security sources, the President and the heads of security and intelligence agencies met on Saturday evening following the assassination of Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga who was gunned down on Friday evening as he returned home in Kawanda, Wakiso District.
Mr Museveni met the heads of Internal and External Security organisations, Chief of Defence Forces, Chief of Military Intelligence, Commissioner General of Prisons, Inspector General of Police and Minister for Security, Defence and Foreign Affairs.
Security sources say in yesterday’s meeting, the President wanted his security chiefs to update him about the progress on the investigations in Abiriga’s murder and also discuss measures to stop the growing spate of organised killings, kidnaps and robberies that have struck fear and awe across the country.
All government officials were tight-lipped on the matter and nobody was willing to confirm the security meeting on record.
Senior presidential press secretary Don Wanyama yesterday said he was not aware of the meeting and referred Daily Monitor to the security agencies that attended.
“I do not comment on security issues. If there is such a meeting and the media has to be briefed, it will be security people to do that,” Mr Wanyama said.
Police spokesperson Emilian Kayima also declined to comment. “Ask those who speak for the Presidency,” he said.
On Sunday, Mr Museveni issued a statement, saying the criminals who killed Abiriga and other Ugandans in the recent past were taking advantage of police using old methods of crime investigation to avoid detection.
“The criminals are using simple techniques to defeat this. They use jacket hoods (kwebika ku mutwe), not to be seen properly. They also bend the registration plates of the pikipikis (motorcycles) so that they are not properly read,” he said in the statement signed by himself.
Eyewitnesses said Abiriga’s killers used hoods to cover their faces to avoid detection after shooting him. Former police spokesperson Andrew Felix Kaweesi was killed in a similar manner by assailants riding motorcycles who escaped undetected.
In his Sunday statement, the President also referred to the Saturday meeting where he said the sub-committee of National Security under the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Muhoozi, had recommended to him to “call-up” some reserves and deploy them in the areas “where criminals may manifest themselves.”
He ordered for installation of surveillance cameras along streets and highways, assisted by cameras by individuals their business premises and homes at own cost.
He also suggests improving police forensic capacity and mounting Global Positioning System [GPS’] on boda boda (motorcycles) and vehicles.
“When you see any suspicious person, please report to police or local leaders or post on social media. You’ve been using social media to do bad things now use it to do good things,” he added during his speech shortly after Finance Minister Matia Kasaijja had read the national budget at Serena Hotel in Kampala on June 14, 2018.
Mr Museveni further said he will not allow police/court to release murder suspects on police bond or court bail respectively.
“Somebody who’s suspected of killing our people, you give him police bond. No way. Bail for killer is also not acceptable. I don’t want a conflict between institutions because I’m soft. I’m doing this in two capacities as President of the country and as the resistance,” he added.
The assassination of Arua Municipality Member of Parliament Ibrahim Abiriga on June 8, seemed to have terrified – not shocked - many Ugandans and made global headlines. Shock is what happened when the likeable Assistant Inspector General of Police and spokesperson of the Force Felix Kaweesi was killed in March 2017, in much the same fashion as the famously dyed-in-yellow ruling NRM’s Abiriga was.
Reading the outpouring of social media reactions, two things stand out. One, because Abiriga’s killing comes on the back of several unsolved murders of big and small Ugandans, there is a widespread view that his slaying will not be solved either. At most, some hapless innocent fellows, all beaten up, will be paraded before cameras for public relations reasons.
Second, that President Museveni’s tough talk is futile. The view is that these crimes are part of a product of long-running of violence against the Opposition, runaway corruption, and nepotism that hollowed out State institutions rendering them ineffectual, and a “tired” leader who has been in power for more than 36 years. In other words, that Museveni himself is Uganda’s biggest problem.
Whatever the case, for those who were not born the other day, all this is familiar. The wave of crime and killings are almost a copybook of what happened in 1979 and 1980, after the ouster of military dictator Idi Amin.
On April 19, 2009 The Monitor published an article ‘Who was still killing and robbing Ugandans after Amin fell?’ by Timothy Kalyegira, available on its website, looking at those 1979-1980 waves of killings. One might not agree with his take on who was likely behind the killings, but it makes for unsettling reading.
One cannot begin to imagine how then Inspector General of Police, David Barlow, dealt with the horrifying killing of his brother Dr Jack Barlow in July of 1979. Daily, the country would wake up to reports of a doctor, politician, military officer, activist, businessman killed or robbed.
It might well be that Abiriga’s and Kaweesi’s killing, and most of the rest that the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) has highlighted in a just-released report, were politically motivated. Or they could be driven by form of sabotage, or economic desperation.
It really doesn’t matter because as in 1979/80, they are all driven by the same considerations – first, to kill someone for political reasons (unless you are a suicide bomber) or to kidnap them, you are motivated to do so the more certain that you will get away with it, because the State is too dysfunctional or incompetent to catch you, or you have protection.
In 1979/80, factions in the interim administration, the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF), resorted to killings partly to discredit each other and manoeuvre for power. In other words, assassinations in Uganda – going back to the 1960s, in fact, are used mostly by regime elements against themselves. Where rebels do it, it is often too obvious, there would be little need to argue about who was behind it.
The NRM seems to be in the same phase; the only question is what is their end game? There are two consolations here, if indeed that is what they are. To start with, Uganda is not alone in this rut.
Demographic shifts, and economic crises around Africa have left governments struggling to provide security. A report last year noted that, as a result, the number of private security guards across Africa is now more than double the number of police and government security forces. Thus two years ago, there were about 446,000 registered security guards operating in South Africa, compared with 270,000 police officers and soldiers.
Nigeria had more than 3,000 registered private security companies, with hundreds more operating informally. Some Uganda data from two years had 60 registered private security firms and nearly 40,000 guards.
There were no estimates for the “jua kali” guarding services, with someone speculating there were “over 100,000 guards” working informally.
The second consolation, beneath the bluster of Museveni and other tough men in the NRM, on my last visit to Uganda a few weeks ago, I noticed a decidedly “less militaristic” air in the country, despite all the crime.
And Museveni’s State-of-the-Nation Address last week, was probably his least belligerent and most reflective in more than 15 years. It is still too early, but I detect that the regime is actually aware that the country is in crisis, and a reset to dig it out of the hole is necessary. So it seems a tiny window is open for a divided country to unite to stitch itself back together.
If the government was still tone deaf, then those young, energetic, angry young men who carried Abiriga’s coffin to anti-government chants in Arua, should have driven the point home. Museveni is facing a mega challenge he can’t resolve by shooting or jailing this time.
Mr Onyango-Obbo is the publisher of Africa datavisualiser Africapedia.com and explainer site Roguechiefs.com. Twitter@cobbo3
He asked Parliament to give him time to address Ugandans on the issue of increased insecurity in the country.
“Please speaker, give me time next week to come and address this issue of insecurity in Parliament,” he said.
Abiriga and his brother Said Buga were killed by unknown assailants on the evening of June 8 a few metres from the MP's home in Kawanda, Wakiso District.