The Thursday night attack on an army detachment in Zombo District sends disturbing signals. The attack by a gang of 80 yet-to-be identified assailants shatters the peace that the country has enjoyed since November 2017.
This incident replays the ugly Kasese clashes that culminated in the Rwenzurru palace massacre that left at least 100 people dead. In the Zombo case, the clash left at least three soldiers dead, 17 attackers killed and another 26 of them captured.
While the attack was quickly repulsed and the assailants pursued, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) needs to get to the bottom of this attack. The army should exhaustively trace who the attackers are, where they are from, what their motives are, and who is behind their organisation.
What is, however, not helpful are the contradicting accounts by security officials (‘Zombo attack: Security officials contradict on invaders’, Daily Monitor, March 10).
On the one hand, Zombo Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Andrew Kajoyingi is categorical and told a press briefing after a district security meeting that the gang is a rebel outfit, complete with tag and defined leadership. On the other hand, the army downgrades the gang to a cult, based on the charms and amulets they carried and wore on their bodies.
Even within the army, their accounts of the group is at odds. While army 4th Division spokesperson Capt Caesar Olweny says the gang carried some guns and offered some resistance, Deputy Defence spokesperson Lt Col Deo Akiiki asserts the gang carried only pangas, spears, bows and arrows, and other crude traditional weapons.
Going beyond the contradictions, there’s need for the UPDF to dig deeper and unearth the group and work to stop these outlaws lest they destabilise the country ahead of the 2021 General Election.
Hence, what is urgent is for the army to move swiftly and defuse the crisis and restore confidence and hope in the frightened residents of Zombo District. (See: ‘Locals flee as gang attacks UPDF base’, Daily Monitor, March 9).
It is reassuring that the UPDF soldiers are pursuing the attackers. Equally reassuring is the resolve by both the cultural and political leadership in the area to denounce the mindless disturbance.
Overall, no one wants to see a repeat of the Kasese clashes and massacre in the country. This is why pacifying Zombo and allowing the people return home and resume normal lives is crucial to guaranteeing peace and development in the area.