Rodney’s umbrella and the LDU’s rifle

Tuesday June 30 2020

By Nicholas Sengoba

As a young child, Rodney, the son of my good friend and Brother Roger, got himself an umbrella on one of his birthdays. He was ecstatic.

Moved, slept, woke up with the umbrella, did Rodney. He couldn’t wait for the school term to begin to show off his new acquisition.

A week into the school term and Rodney was stressed by his beloved umbrella. He sat his father down for a man-to-man talk. Rodney tasked the old man to explain why despite his diligence in carrying his umbrella every day, it was not raining or showing signs of doing so. The sun was shining on his parade!

I met Rodney a few years ago at his grandfather’s funeral. The all grown teenager made me marvel about this journey called life.

Many have dropped out of this wonderful challenging journey, with their lives precipitately cut short, by trigger happy security agents enforcing Covid-19 presidential guidelines.

More people in Uganda in the last four months have been shot dead by overenthusiastic restless Local Defence Units (LDUs) for things as somewhat mundane (compared to their fate) as not wearing facemasks, being transported on a boda boda or failing to beat the curfew, than those that have been killed by the coronavirus. Ironically, none has died from the deadly virus.

The luckier ones have ‘only’ been beaten and maimed by the same security agents. The luckiest ones are set free after paying a bribe.

Evelyn Namulondo, a market vendor in Jinja, was shot early morning during curfew hours as she rushed to buy fruits to replenish her stall. A 65-year-old Francis Ogwang Munnu of Oyam District, was spared the bullet, but was allegedly kicked repeatedly in the abdomen, leading to his death.

Benon Nsimenta a Lay Reader ordained in the Anglican Diocese of South Rwenzori District was shot in the neck for riding his wife on a motorbike on the way to dig in his garden. Now there are eight orphans to feed, clothe and push through school. May the Lord provide for them and the widow too.

I don’t see us being spared these horrendous acts very soon. They may increase when we start the political season proper with all manner of restrictions being imposed to have a ‘smooth’ election.

The trouble starts with the recruitment and training of many of these fellows who are often from needy backgrounds. They are psyched up and correctly so, as being an important lynchpin in the defence, peace, order and progress of the country.

As shown in their demonstrations during their passing out after training, they are primed for battle. Firing assault files, rolling in and out of trenches in the mud, and singing songs about being prepared to hunt down and finish the enemy (adui).

Next thing you see these combat ready militants, armed to the teeth, deployed all over the place like a bad rash.
Like Rodney’s umbrella, they wait in vain for the adui. Out of frustration to demonstrate their adroitness and put to use their freely and fully loaded assault rifles, they embark on creating the sort of enemy they were promised they would encounter and annihilate.

It does not make matters any better that they are often poorly fed, paid, housed and are overworked.

They develop an angry inferiority complex, which makes them assume that the people they are tasked to protect and police are ungrateful snobs who look down upon the men of the gun.

So they stand up for themselves and show their power, might and authority, which makes them feel as important and near to the sort of officers they were trained to be.

To make matters worse, there is always someone to justify their deeds.

“It was a stray bullet,” “ the victim was violent,” “the officer acted in self-defence,”
“It was a case of suicide,” etc. This means that their acts are not exactly frowned upon.
They are a necessary evil for a country whose systems have broken down and can hardly prosecute cases of a criminal nature to the logical conclusion. Summary justice becomes necessary.

Like it happened recently when a he-goat (epaya) made headlines, something has to be done. A car in the presidential motorcade knocked it as it illegally loitered on the highway. It survived, but the owner was compensated by the President. A goat can’t be more valuable than a human life.

May those who have been shot dead or injured at least be recompensed and may there be a patient mechanism of dealing with those deemed to have broken the law.

This war on unarmed citizens is too costly and is dreadfully getting out of hand.

Twitter: @nsengoba