What you need to know:
- The Internal Affairs minister says claims of an emerging armed rebellion are at the moment not supported with evidence.
The gun attacks on security forces since last year have nothing to do with a nascent insurgent group, Internal Affairs Minister Gen Kahinda Otafiire has said.
There has been a growing spate of attacks on security installations and personnel mainly targeting police officers, which Deputy Inspector General of Police, Maj Gen Geoffrey Katsigazi, blamed on a so-called Uganda Coalition for Change rebel group.
“The problem of attacking police posts and taking guns is a deliberate effort by a group of people who seem to think they can change the government by force. So, it’s no longer the same criminals who come and attack with machetes and rob. This is mainly to kill and take guns,” Katsigazi, a two-star military general parachuted as second-in-command in police, said on November 4.
However, minister Otafiire, who is the political supervisor of police, told journalists in Gulu City yesterday that claims of an emerging armed rebellion are at the moment not supported with evidence.
“The same man who attacked Bukomero [in central Uganda] was the same man in Mbale [City in eastern Uganda], was also the same man killed in the Kapeeka [in central Uganda’s Nakaseke District] attack,” he said, adding, “But then everybody is saying three [people are] a rebel group … No. These are simple criminal gangs … It has nothing to do with rebellion, this is a sheer crime”.
As Maj Gen Otafiire, a veteran of the Bush War that brought President Museveni to power in 1986 spoke in Gulu City yesterday, some 300kms away in Kampala, the capital, his junior minister, Gen David Muhoozi, a former chief of defence forces, told Parliament that if not for internal lapses “by rogue” elements within the forces, some of the onslaughts related to subversion could have been averted or repulsed.
Some of the most daring were the October 31 raid on Busiika Police Station in which three officers; local intelligence chief Alex Wagaluka and Police Constables Moses Ongol and Stephen O’dama were killed. Two weeks later, on November 14, unknown gunmen on a motorcycle shot at officers at Kensington Police Post in Kyanja, a Kampala City suburb, but injured no one and took no weapon.
Again on November 17, Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldier, Sgt Simon Peter Eyagu, was gunned down and two rifles, which have since been recovered and one suspect killed, were grabbed in a night raid on a small gate at Gaddafi barracks in Jinja City.
Internal Affairs State minister Muhoozi, an acitive-duty army general, told legislators that a rogue police officer on November 27 faked a burglary and theft of a gun after losing the weapon assigned to him.
“According to available intelligence,” Gen Muhoozi told attentive legislators, “the motives for these actions are acquisition of arms for subversive activities (from the admissions and claims of some of the apprehended culprits”), as well as for other criminal ends other than subversion”.
The former CDF offered the accountability to the legislature in a response to a query in the House by Kalungu County West MP Joseph Ssewungu, about the state of national security in the wake of assaults on security forces.
As the junior Internal Affairs minister responsible for Uganda’s internal security, Gen Muhoozi reports to Minister Otafiire, and it remained unclear who of them should be believed following differing explanations on the same day, but at separate locations, about the motivations for prevailing insecurity.
Besides targeted attacks on security forces, gangs have also pounced on civilians in various parts of the city, robbing them of valuables or bludgeoning the victims to death.
At the Gulu media briefing yesterday, Gen Otafiire said available information suggests the attacks are “sheer criminality” and police should be given time to investigate and “then we shall tell the country whether somebody is engaged in crime or has got a political motive.”
Responding to questions from this newspaper, the minister commented on wide-ranging issues, including the touchy succession question and alleged illegal arrests of civilians by state security and intelligence actors and subsequent incarcerations.
“I have restrained the police from arresting innocent people. Don’t arrest people just on mere suspicion, let there be clear evidence,” he said, adding that a “government that abducts citizens is not a government”.
His comments came in the wake of claims by the Opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) party that at least 25 of its supporters, among them an accountant, head teacher and teacher, as well as barmaids, had been taken away by unknown armed men in a “Drone” – a van named so for its speed – since the abductions resumed three months ago.
NUP has tendered the list of the persons reported missing to Uganda Human Rights Commission, the statutory rights body, which requested for it to further its own inquiries.
Gen Otafiire in yesterday’s address also asked voters to be open-minded about criticising President Museveni, who is “not from heaven”, and government officials as well if they fall short on implementing the re-election manifesto.
“Don’t tell the government to go away, tell them what they have done wrong, don’t fear to speak, don’t fear to criticise, make sure you do that because we are your government, we are not our government,” he said.
He added: “If you want to criticise Museveni, do it truthfully, criticise the government on condition that you are telling the truth, let’s have an intelligent debate between those who own government and those who run the government.”
On the succession question, he said the incumbent remains their 2026 choice for National Resistance Movement (NRM) presidential flag bearer and individuals traversing the country to ostensibly canvass support for First Son, Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, are causing confusion because it is not time for elections and they are not members of the ruling party.