Kirumira murder: Why President Museveni needs to watch his back

Tuesday September 11 2018

Nicholas Sengoba

Nicholas Sengoba  

By Nicholas Sengoba

Last Saturday, Muhammad Kirumira (RIP), the maverick police officer who fell out with his superiors because he accused them of mismanaging the Force, was gruesomely murdered together with a lady in a car. The assassination was carried out after the now infamous fashion of a person sitting on the pillion of a motorbike, pulling the trigger then speeding away while shooting in the air. His motive could have been any of the following:

First, the killer may have had a grudge against Kirumira. Secondly they targeted Kirumira to create an opening for themselves to be relevant in the security of this country and take advantage of the huge funding found there in. Thirdly they may have wanted to embarrass the authorities by murdering him to show the world that the NRM government is intolerant of critics of its high-handed tools of coercion such as the police force. Then, they may have wanted to perpetuate the idea that this government has weakened so much that it can no longer guarantee the security of Ugandans.
Also, knowing that Kirumira’s anti-establishment ‘crusade’ resonated with many of the young people who are at odds with the NRM government, his death would anger many and motivate them to vent their frustration against the government and its representatives.

This would help keep up the momentum of resentment and violence that has been building up since the fallout following the Arua Municipality by-election that ended up with the arrest and the alleged torture of MP Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, and many Opposition supporters. The killer may also have wanted to scuttle the ‘news menu’ that has been dominated by the much touted rise of Bobi Wine and his so-called ‘People Power’ movement, which was given prominence by the events during and after the Arua Municipality by-election. This has defined news about Uganda both locally and internationally for the last one month or so. It has put the NRM government on the back foot trying to explain away Bobi Wine and cleanse its image.
Going by the previous high profile murders such as that of former police spokesperson Andrew Felix Kaweesi, prosecutor Joan Kagezi and several Muslim Sheikhs, we may never know the motive. These matters just die away after sometime. What we know from Uganda’s history is that unexplained murders always take their toll on governments and many times lead them into making mistakes.

The need to assert themselves means they may at times become overly high-handed, with several disastrous knee-jerk reactions like indiscriminately arresting suspects and at times killing innocent people. When this happens, those that contend with the government may then keep the weak man’s option of murdering people in a hit and run guerrilla fashion to cause more anger and push the hand of government to keep on overreacting. Then there is the group within the ruling class that gets glittery because of public anger due to unresolved murders, and other regime failures keeps escalating. This group reads on social media and hears callers on radio stations angrily threatening nationalities associated with those in power.
In this group you add those who may have ambitions of leading the country, but whose ambitions may have been frustrated by the intransigence and inertia of the current office holder - 32 years in Museveni’s case.

An air of uncertainty begins to build up. People start thinking about their safety and security of their property. They view the one at the top as a problem that needs to move out in an organised and systematic way. This is because a sudden collapse will mean disaster for everyone. It is now every man for himself.
This group is very dangerous and when they become desperate with more cases of unexplained deaths, may ironically start undermining the government from within to hasten its downfall. They do this by allying with forces that they see emerging as a possible replacement of the current regime. They will provide cover to those who carry out these daring attacks to make them appear invincible. Subsequent deaths mean more anger and pressure on the President and his government to cede ground, negotiate and probably plan a safe exit or be overthrown. During the short-lived regime of Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa between 1979-1980, doctors Abuden Obache, Jack Barlow, Mitchell Bagenda were shot dead mysteriously prompting many to blame Binaisa who became unpopular for he seemed clueless thus justifying regime change. That is how power eventually gravitated towards UPC under Obote.

Then the government of Apollo Milton Obote suffered all these cycles. When his vice president Paulo Muwanga and like-minded people in UPC felt Obote was irredeemably weak and thus becoming a liability to them, they presided over a deteriorating security situation with news of ‘un-coordinated,’ troop movements, rampant unexplained murders and armed robberies. Eventually they allied with the Tito and Bazillio Okello group of disgruntled Acholi officers to undermine Obote subsequently leading to the coup of 1985.
Their calculation was that with Obote out of the way, they would achieve two things. First, that Obote’s departure as a sacrificial lamb, could pacify the many angry Ugandans, that ‘their problem’ had been done away with. Secondly that it would serve as an opportunity for them to recreate themselves and protect their wealth and positions in the country under a new leader.
Museveni has cause to watch his back.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social
issues. Twitter:@nsengoba