Rukungiri. Muslims should not be profiled or targeted for the rising crime in the country, including reported threats posed by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group, the former Security minister has said.
Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde, whom President Museveni relieved of his ministerial duties in March after only 21 months in the job, told Daily Monitor in an interview at the weekend that there is no reason for any leader to “victimise” Muslims.
“I handled terrorism, ADF was involved and I am on record for never having victimised Muslims,” he said, referring to his 1998 tenure as Chief of Military Intelligence and later as Internal Security Orgainsation (ISO) director general.
“It is just about how leaders manage situations; I do not think Muslims need to be victimised by [any one] for any reason. Everyone knows it was very complicated operation [against ADF], but I was very methodical at putting blame where it lay. I expect this of any other leader,” he added.
The ADF is a Ugandan rebel group based in eastern DR Congo and its members are mainly Muslims, according to security agencies.
The trial of the group’s leader Jamil Mukulu began in Kampala last week following his capture in Tanzania in May 2015.
The army says the rebels have re-grouped and could stage an attack, a couple of years after DR Congo president Joseph Kabila’s government said it had overrun the group’s headquarters.
Last December, the UPDF conducted preemptive strikes on the insurgents’ purported camps and reported killing at least 100 rebels.
Whereas Lt Gen Tumukunde did not give reasons for his reference to “victimisation” of Muslims, rights groups and Muslim leaders have raised similar concerns due to a pattern of Muslims being picked up as suspects in every major violent crime incident in the country.
However, the army spokesperson, Brig Richard Karemire, referring to Gen Tumukunde’s comments yesterday said: “He has got it wrong this time.” “We do not target anyone because of their faith and religion. Anyone who breaks the law is treated as an individual and such criminals should stop hiding behind religion,” he added.
During the interview, Lt Gen Tumukunde also offered ideas on how to rein in on increasing criminality.
“Sometimes crime grows to certain level and curbing it needs more organised designs and, as far as I am concerned, we need to be more organised and we will get rid of crime,” he said.
The retired general, who has previously served time in jailed for speaking his mind and falling out with the establishment, did not say if he put the same ideas to work when he held the Security docket.
He also proposed that President Museveni and his main challenger Kizza Besigye should pick a leaf from Kenyan leaders and hold constructive dialogue to resolve Uganda’s intractable political and economic problems.
“That message of reconciliation is very important. People must put their country first. Party should guide people’s thinking; our country [should] always come on top when we are doing things as people,” Lt Gen Tumukunde said.
Mr Frank Tumwebaze, the Information minister and government spokesperson, declined to discuss the proposal, saying: “I have not heard it, I have not read it. Go and ask people who have read his suggestion and let them comment.”
Lt Gen Tumukunde also condemned the sectarian politics manifested in the Rukungiri Woman MP by-election campaigns.
Dozens of Muslims have been arrested and, in some instances, detained and brutalised for months, on such cases as the 2010 Kampala bombings, the separate killings of the then senior state prosecutor Joan Kagezi and police spokesperson Andrew Felix Kaweesi and, more recently, the kidnap and gruesome murder of Susan Magara. The military and police in April jointly raided Usafi Mosque and arrested several Muslims they claimed were engaged in radicalising children and human trafficking as well as hiding suspected Magara killers.
Additional reporting by Franklin Ezaruku