Insecurity will grind the country to a halt

Thursday September 13 2018

Karoli Ssemogerere

Karoli Ssemogerere 

By Karoli Ssemogerere

The last three months have been nerve wracking. In June, former Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga was executed on his way home. In the same month, former IGP Kale Kayihura was arrested in Kabula County. In July, the Constitutional Court rendered judgment in the age-limit petition that for all its platitudes, failed to resolve the central issue put to it.

In August, the Arua by-election ended in bloody scenes as SFC personnel violently pursued persons who allegedly stoned the presidential convoy. This story extended to grotesque scenes as two MPs, politicians were allegedly tortured before being brought by the DPP to court to face treason charges. September has kicked off with another murder/execution of a promising young police officer Mohammad Kirumira and his female companion as he returned home in Bulenga from a social event. The President’s speech offered few direct responses. But the situation is no longer ordinary. The climate of insecurity is only harming the economy, which is absorbing significant external shocks already, high dollar, high energy, falling commodity prices, etc.
The same economy is withering under high unemployment, a winter of discontent linked to Uganda’s political system dominated by patronage. Efforts by government to moderate the domestic revenue situation through higher taxes while wise, came after government had expended all its political capital on the 2017 constitutional amendments.

In fact, once the deed was done, government lost its juice. The President can still turn the corner. First he has to pronounce himself on political transition as a strong necessity. For someone who has been in control, President Museveni hardly sees himself as a lame duck.
In fact, the duelling winds have made him look at his erstwhile opponent Kizza Besigye to save the day through a revival of talks to create a government of National Unity if the two run against each other in 2021. Silently, many Opposition figures are banking on these lifeline as another way to survive the Bobi Wine wave, an incomplete wave that is riding on popular discontent and an international campaign on a rather nascent, but substantial scale.

Second, the President must urgently collect the resignations of two great Ugandan patriots, Generals Elly Tumwine and Jeje Odongo, Ministers for Security and Internal Affairs. They are well meaning but no longer have the energy for a job which requires zero sleep. Museveni hates firing people, but after years spent on a bulky national ID system, it seems the old man was misled into riding the wrong tiger.
The President must also accept to retire with benefits Martins Okoth-Ochola, the IGP into retirement. Ochola, who turned 60 years old this month, does not have the mental energy or strategic resolve to do the job. He is seen now as a figurehead, with powers vested in his deputy.

In fact, the tribal configuration of police and penetration of kawukumi during his predecessor’s tenure makes the entire police a candidate for disbandment. Too much misconduct happened under his predecessor, without repeating the late Kirumira’s words.
Third, the President’s economic team requires a major shakeup. Matia Kasaija, Vincent Sempijja, Janaat Mukwaya need to be reassigned to other roles. Finance, agriculture and the employment situation require fresh ideas. In fact, while torture is the main theme, taxes, collapsing commodity prices, turning Ugandans into migrant labour are a dangerous combination of sub-themes that are causing anxiety in the country.

Kenya next door offers a few lessons. After a spectacularly divisive election, the two main actors have made up with devastating effect on the established oligarchies that make Kenya both very wealthy and a bastion of great inequality.
There are already a few notorious judges, a DPP, mandarins that need to turn in their badges like yesterday. The day President Museveni turns to these, we will know the real transition to the pampered bazukkulu has begun. Kisanja Hakuna Mchezo was just window dressing.

Mr Ssemogerere is an attorney-at-Law and an advocate. [email protected]