If you made a random poll on who the most corrupt Ugandan is, what five names do you think would top the list? Is there evidence that any of them is actually corrupt and guilty of pilfering public funds? Probably not – because it is possible that whoever is on your list has never been found guilty or even ever made it to court.
The question then is: why always them? There has got to be a reason why everybody thinks you’re a thief. Or, if one was referring to the Uganda Police and its sister (why do we use sister?!) security agencies, there has got to be a reason why you’re always the first suspects when a political activist goes missing or turns up dead.
For a while now, the rest of us watched as opposition politicians and those who dared to dissent, get served hot soup. Our subconscious even half-accepted this, and the fact that the Police would probably issue shifting statements, half explanations and denials. This uncanny practice was flying, until the introduction of the tactless the Local Defence Unit personnel.
Seemingly deficient on intelligence quotient, the notorious outfit have upped the ante of their frustrations and power heights to all and everyone – making it hard for their superiors to make up the explanations as they go, because there is no justification. Violence, in whatever form, has always lived with us and those that cared always found theories to explain the method around it. Sometimes it was a random accident, or that someone handcuffed injured themselves so bad they couldn’t walk, or a mob or a case of bipolar.
Ultimately, for some, it has ended tragically while for others, there have been close shaves, because life is a collection of contradictions that often manifest as confrontations. Last weekend while chatting with friends about gun violence, two stories stood out. One friend shared how on some night, a soldier on patrol had told him that he would shoot and kill him, then plant a torch next to his body – to allege that he mistook the torch for a gun. Another shared how an askari at a petrol station had also threatened to shoot and kill him. He had sat to take a phone call, when the askari approached him, he (the askari) ordered him to kneel down, which the said friend refused to do, without explaining himself.
These two cases are peculiar because on the one hand, you have a gun in the hands of UPDF soldier for whom we must assume the highest level of training – to incapacitate without needing to exterminate – and an Askari with evidently subpar training – who could so easily be an LDU. Somehow, both see questions about their power as a nail because they are carrying a hammer. But even when you don’t ask questions, you might not get spared. You sense that this, and the need to control and monopolise power and violence is the reason why there are strict controls – to the point of prescribing death on deviants – on the possession and use of guns. Since we know that most people respect the badge but everybody respects the gun, that is why guns should only be in the hands of those authorised by government, to serve a specific purpose. The assumption here is that the state has mechanisms to determine the emotional intelligence of those to whom it issues guns to. In our case though, it doesn’t seem like the state has this capacity or the ability to exercise it, and the results are there for all to see.
What’s clear from the reported cases is that majority of those in possession of firearms are neither of sound mind nor of temperate habits, as prescribed by the Firearms Act. In which case, withdrawing the guns should be the sensible and logical thing to do, or stock up the tear banks to continue mourning. But it’s not enough to withdraw the guns because as you might have seen through videos making rounds, even where they aren’t using guns, they more than make up for it with sticks.
If it hasn’t sunk in yet, consider that in a few months, we shall go into a heated campaign period, in dire economic straits, and that there won’t be questions on whose side they are. Now they serve it solemn but soon they will add a bit of display.
Mr Rukwengye is the founder, Boundless Minds. firstname.lastname@example.org