More murders, more questions

Sunday April 5 2015

 

By IVAN OKUDA

At around 7.40pm on Monday, two men riding on a motorcycle arrived at a busy roadside market in the Kiwatule suburb of Kampala. One of them – the passenger who was wearing a trench coat – walked to a double cabin pick-up truck, pulled out an AK-47 rifle and pointed it at the woman driver who had stopped to buy fruits.

He shot one bullet that hit her neck shattering the spinal cord, and a second bullet in the shoulder that hit her left lung, settling in the diaphragm. He walked back to the motorcycle and they sped away. Joan Kagezi, the senior state attorney – who was behind the wheel gasped for the last strains of breath as her children desperately begged her not to die.

A few vehicles behind, by coincidence, was the director of the Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Department Grace Akullo who was among the first at the scene of crime. An hour later, the Inspector General of Police arrived at the scene. The IGP would attribute the murder to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

The out pouring of grief and eulogies after this horrific act against the prosecutor who had cut her niche in the High Court’s International Crimes Division, the reaction of police, Parliament and indeed other state institutions followed a familiar pattern – terrorism.

Already, voices in and out of government have almost concluded that Kagezi was killed because of her line of work; prosecuting ADF allied terror suspects.

It is ADF again
“It is almost predictable that someone will be paraded by police, he will confess he got orders from ADF or al-Shabaab and police never concludes investigations,” a senior security source who preferred anonymity told this newspaper. Gen Kayihura says the killings could also be fuelled by organised criminal groups who want to distort peace in the country.

As murders continue to rock the country, security analysts say it is important to analyse the pattern of killings.

“The person(s) who shot Kagezi and indeed even the Muslim leaders could only be professional killers. The question is, who are these professional killers?” Mr David Pulkol, the former director general of the External Security Organisation (ESO) says.

Not so long ago, a government official was shot right in his house. The assailant stealthily made his way to the roof of his house, pulled out a few tiles, accessed the ceiling and descended into the house, shooting his target. He used no ordinary gun; it was a silencer. Sources in security say these type of ammunitions are a reserve for a section of the armed forces. And only specially trained personnel have the capacity to execute such smooth operations.

Clearly, some security sources assert, the method of killing is so meticulous that it has to be the work of highly trained people. Does ADF have such people, they ask.

The police have thrown the card of ADF on the table but many questions remain as to what state of “health” the rebel outfit is in as a fighting force. An investigative report by the United Nations panel of experts on Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) released recently claims, “The United Nations operations in DR Congo had decimated ADF strength from 2,000 personnel to around 200 by November 2014.” Is this decimated ADF capable of executing such organised missions in the city? To what end?

The question then is, why does ADF keep featuring in security alerts and high profile murders?

Presidential adviser on security in Buganda region Brig Kasirye Gwanga opines that the security crisis is part of a bigger global problem. “Tell people to be careful. These things are happening everywhere, they are not unique to Uganda,” he told this newspaper.

Unlike Brig Gwanga, Mr Pulkol says he is tempted to believe there is an insurgency looming and these murders are setting the stage.

There seems to be a creeping insurgency, he says, expounding, “I smell it, I feel it but I can’t touch it. When I see the pattern, frequency, this is beyond ordinary crime. Some group seems to be poking holes in the Museveni scorecard of security.

It is beginning to get punctured [like Nigeria’s issue with Boko Haram which analysts say could be one of the reasons Jonathan Goodluck lost the elections]. So there is a creeping insurgency. I am tempted to believe Kale Kayihura’s talk of a rebel group. He has access to intelligence files, who am I to doubt him?”

Again that can sound farfetched but there is a history to back that school of thought.

During the burial of former UPC stalwart Adonia Tiberondwa, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Kahinda Otafiire shocked mourners when he said National Resistance Army fighters used to wear government uniform and kill residents to blackmail the Obote regime.

“That is what Museveni did in 1980 with the Kayiras to puncture holes in UPC and show the masses their government couldn’t protect them. You see, as you block legitimate ways in which people can cause change and disregard legitimate opposition as enemies, dismiss elections as a mere piece of paper, making citizens more desperate, they resort to desperate means. I’m worried it will become worse before it becomes better.”

So is someone trying to make the Museveni regime look bad?
Muwanga Kivumbi, a Member of Parliament’s Defence and Internal affairs committee does not dismiss Pulkol outright, “It is common to have such armed killings in the country before and after elections so anything is possible.”

But more importantly, Pulkol says: “There is a terrorist threat given some of the actions of our government, we have won friends and enemies so we must be awake to this.”

So how do all these play into the murders we witness in the city?
Mr Charles Rwomushana, a former head of political intelligence desk at State House takes a rather controversial line of thought: “Please note that after the attack on the sheikh in Busoga, a police station was attacked. 24 hours after Kagezi is killed a police station in Luweero is attacked. These are not innocent coincidences.”
Now that leaves the puzzle more jumbled.

Failing intelligence?
Many security analysts attribute the insecurity and murders to failing intelligence both in terms of coordination and penetrating the criminal gangs.

Former Inspector General of Police John Kisembo is cagey when asked to comment about the recent spate of murders. “I don’t want to speculate, let us wait for investigations to be concluded,” he says. Pressed by this reporter on just where the problem could be that is giving opportunity to criminals to operate with impunity, he said, “We are short of security; we don’t know what is happening and what will happen.”

He, for instance decries the abolition of special branch, an intelligence department of police that he once headed but was disbanded. He has some good words about special branch; that it excelled in intelligence gathering for crime prevention unlike the current CIID that, “does fire brigade like intelligence. Special branch was in all institutions and did intelligence on everybody.”

When all is said and done, we still cannot put a finger to the cause of these murders. “The police bosses are as clueless as ordinary citizens. They are at the top of intelligence but speak in probabilities which is childish because they are guessing like everyone else,” Rwomushana says.

Human rights lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuzi says, “Police has done well in weakening the Opposition, the IGP is more pre-occupied with politics than security and the force is not professionally managed. That is where the change must start,” while MP Kivumbi concludes, “Maintaining a dictatorship is costly. In 2017 police budget is projected to hit Shs800b but most of the money goes to public order management for political reasons. Our security is at stake.”

But as politicians and experts argue and debate, the country continues to live in fear and the criminals continue to get away with it.

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