At least 51 people reported by relatives to have disappeared are in the custody of the Special Forces Command (SFC), President Museveni has revealed, broadening the range of actors in highly-criticised operations where armed operatives abduct civilians.
In a February 23, 2021, letter that State House sent to this newspaper yesterday, Gen Museveni, who doubles as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, said the suspects had been misled by criminally-minded groups to engage in treasonous plots.
However following weeks of interrogations, the President noted that the missing persons had become friends of the State because they helped “to expose the whole criminal scheme of elements of the opposition plus their local parasite and foreign backers”.
“Too bad for the traitors. These poor youth gave us the whole scheme and they are now our friends,” Gen Museveni wrote, disclosing that up to 53 of the suspects were with SFC by the time he addressed the country on February 13, 2021 about the reported disappearances of citizens.
Two were released, he noted, among them one suffering from tuberculosis, while 51 remain in custody.
The President did not disclose possible charges against the individuals or the reason why they have not been formally arraigned in court as required by the Constitution and neither did he explain why the suspects were being held by SFC rather than regular State investigating agencies.
The President’s letter was shared three days after the Internal Affairs minister, Gen Jeje Odongo, tabled in Parliament a list of 177 civilians that he said were presumed missing, but were on remand in civilian prisons or detained at Makindye Military Barracks.
However, the minister did not reference any SFC involvement in the sting operations or detaining suspects.
The SFC, commanded by First Son, Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, is a semi-independent outfit within the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and its core job is guarding the President and the Vice President, top State guests and officials as well as key national installations.
It has periodically been inserted on special operations in battle fronts and its commandos, according to Gen Museveni, subdued potential election-time chaos and killed scores of “terrorists” (the President’s preferred description of Opposition protestors).
The arrests of civilians, mainly supporters of the Opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) party, began during the electioneering period, with many of the individuals picked by plain-clothed armed operatives who sped off with them in vans, nicknamed Drone for their speed, to unknown locations.
As reports of the abductions and disappearances piled, and anxiety spiralled among the population, Kampala Catholic Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga likened the modus operandi of State security agencies under the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) to that of past regimes of Idi Amin and Milton Obote. In his letter, which we publish verbatim on pages 48 and 49, Mr Museveni noted that such comparison is “tendentious, dishonest and malicious” because “the disappearances [are] as a consequence of the essentially treasonable acts of elements of the opposition.”
“It is dishonest for anybody to talk about the mistakes, if any, of the security forces without talking about the origin of the problem: treason, using terrorism by the Opposition. Criticise the army, if justified, but also criticise those taking the unconstitutional road of terrorism, intimidation, sectarianism etc,” he noted.
In Uganda’s political parlance, the word “disappearance” denotes the practice by security operatives to forcibly take individuals for undisclosed offence, with whereabouts of the victims remaining unknown or dying in mysterious circumstances.
Mr Museveni, who peppered his missive with Biblical quotes, put individuals he called “traitors, local parasites and their foreign backers” on notice that the “forces that liberated Uganda” stand ready to defend it.
Museveni’s full letter
“O’ you People of Little Faith”
In the Book of Matthew Chapter 8, Verses 23 to 26, Jesus, while rebuking the winds, said: “Why are you afraid, O you people of little faith? This was as a consequence of lack of faith when the boat they were sitting in was being swamped by the waves and His disciples were afraid that they were going to perish.
These thoughts bring me to the events in Uganda where the different elements of the UPDF [Uganda people’s Defence Forces] and police have been criticised for brutal conduct and use of excessive force.
The criticism is good and necessary in a free society like Uganda. However, that criticism should be honest and balanced. The NRA [National Resistance Army] /UPDF came on the scene of Uganda in 1986. Before that, there had been the tribal armies of the kingdoms of these areas, the colonial Army of the British and the post-independence neo-colonial Armies (Uganda Army, UNLA etc.).
All those armies were famous for beating people, looting (okwaaya), raping women, killings, destruction of property (raiding cattle, destroying buildings etc.) and more. Kampala and the other towns of Uganda were massively looted in the 1979 war.
Some of the companies, such as UGIL – the maker of the famous Yamato shirts – never recovered, after that. UGIL was jointly owned by UDC [Uganda Development Corporation] and Mzee Kashiwada [Yuichi Kashiwada, the executive director of Phenix Logistics Ltd], a very useful Japanese businessman. NRA captured major towns of Uganda such as Fort Portal, Mubende, Kiboga, Kasese, Kamwenge, Bushenyi, Ibanda, Mbarara, Kabale, Masaka, Kampala, Jinja, Tororo, Mbale, Gulu, Lira, Arua, etc.
Quote for me a number of incidents of lootings, beatings or killings during that take-over of Uganda by the NRA, if you are honest. If there are none or there are very few, what is the reason for that? The reason was that somebody had taught them that good soldiers are like good surgeons.
A surgeon uses a knife, just like the butcher does. However, the surgeon’s knife only goes for the tumour, for the cancer. It does not cut anyhow. If you cut anyhow, you are, then, a butcher. Even for the cancer, you do not have to use the knife always. If chemotherapy and radiation can do, you avoid the knife.
Therefore, the NRA/UPDF always goes for the armed enemies that are not willing to surrender. These are the ones that will and should be attacked. An armed enemy can be armed with a gun, a knife, a panga or a hammer. One million people were killed in Rwanda using machetes.
This is the uncontested heritage of the NRA/UPDF. Sometimes, mistakes occur like the people who died at Bucoro, Mukula or Mukongoro. Eventually, however, those mistakes get discovered. Why? It is because Uganda, eversince the NRM [National Resistance Movement] came to power, is a free society, with elected structures (the LCs) everywhere.
These structures will bring up those mistakes and nobody will intimidate them because we protect them. Once those isolated mistakes are discovered, they are addressed appropriately. Sometimes, those mistakes happen because of inadequate briefing to the soldiers. Where mistakes are intentional, we act harshly against the mistake makers.
All Ugandans know the problems emanating from our cultures in relation to handling crime. Take beating thieves or wrong doers, for instance. The untrained Ugandans, believe in their proverb. It goes: Akabwa akabii, kagumya mugoongo gwaako – a stealing dog, pays with its back. That is why mobs kill thieves with mob justice. Wife beating. Corporal punishment for children in homes or even in schools. It is this culture that the NRA had to fight. When there are lapses, however, you may get regression into incorrect ways of handling wrong doers.
Indeed, a few years ago, I had to remind, in writing, all the security personnel, the incorrectness and unproductivity of applying beatings on wrong doers or the use of extra-judicial killings. Those actions stopped that time. With the recent allegations, I have already sent out written reminders of our doctrine and why. While it is correct to be concerned when there are arrests and when people are not brought to court quickly, it is tendentious, dishonest and malicious to compare these mistakes to Amin’s time or present the situation as incurable.
In the Book of Ephesians 4:15, it says: “Speaking the truth in love should be our primary guide in criticism. Godly criticism is true and loving. It comes from a humble, caring heart that wishes the best for the other person. It is not bitter, condescending, insulting or cold-hearted”.
The crime wave
Ugandans, therefore, be assured that, like in the past, such mistakes will be identified and corrected.Moreover, with our new campaign, the new actors will absorb the NRA/UPDF culture of their predecessors. However, those who criticise the UPDF should start with the criminals.
The arrests, termed “disappearances” by some, came as a consequence of the myopic plans by the enemies of Uganda that started some years ago with the killing of the Muslim sheikhs, Joan Kagezi [assistant director of public prosecution and head of the International Criminal Division in Uganda’s Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs], policemen [Andrew Felix] Kawesi [police spokesperson] and [former Buyende district police commander Muhammad] Kirumira, [Mohammed] Kiggundu, the women in Nansana, the women in Entebbe, the women in Zana, the killing of Susan Magara, the killing of [former Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim] Abiriga, the New Years’ killings of Kisojjo in Masaka, the attacks on factories, the killing of [Maria] Nagirinya etc.
Those criminalities caused us to make my address to Parliament, on June 20, 2018, where I outlined new anti-crime measures, including the installation of cameras and the massive recruitment of LDUs [Local Defence Unit].
That crime wave, was defeated. Indeed, a number of criminals were either killed or arrested. Those killed include those that attacked the security personnel during the riots as already referred to above. Those arrested and being tried include those who attacked the police woman [Assistant Superintendent of Police Consilanta Kasule] with a hammer, those who undressed women wearing NRM T-shirts and those who were involved in organising and executing the riots of November, 2020. Those killings, even at that time, had a political element about them. There appeared to be an attempt to demoralise the people of Uganda and make them believe that NRM has failed to sustain its long record of maintaining peace in the country.
When the time for elections approached, the new campaign was that if anybody continued to support the NRM, he or she would either be killed, attacked or his property would be damaged for instance destroying people’s crops (kusawa ebirime like the confused Kabaka Yekka did in 1961/62 against the DP supporters).
Particularly, in some parts of Buganda, on the radios and social media, vicious sectarian campaigns, were launched, trying to divide the people of Uganda. Even though it was Covid-19 time, some Opposition candidates made it clear that for them, they would not obey the directives of the Ministry of Health and the mobilisation was that should law and order agencies touch these untouchables, there would be an insurrection.
Young people were being trained in insurrection tactics. In the meantime, threats against NRM supporters (okuhayira, okwewelela) were intensified and actual attacks started. “Yemwe abatusibye ko omusajja, mugenda kutulaba” – “You NRM supporters are the ones that have made Museveni to continue in power. You will see the consequences”, were the threats. “Yes, sir, we are, indeed, the ones that have kept Museveni and NRM in power”. “How, then, do you, in the same breath, call him a dictator?” “A dictator kept by us in power – so much that you have to threaten us with death to force us to abandon him!!” If you want to change my political position, persuade me. You have no right to intimidate me.
Then, actual attacks on NRM supporters and the destruction of the posters of the candidates these Opposition supporters did not like, intensified. In all this, the Opposition was assisted by corrupt elements in the police force.
At Katale in Kawempe, when NRM supporters went to complain to the police about the intimidation by the Opposition, they were told: “That is politics. We do not involve ourselves in politics”!!
The Opposition and their foreign backers thought that their schemes of hijacking the destiny of the people of Uganda by installing a quisling regime in Uganda, was now water-tight. In this, they were being supported by the parasite elements within Uganda – those who never work, but want wealth and power, including the new comprador (agents of foreign interests) bourgeosie who want our country to remain as a super-market for foreign products and resent our rapid industrialisation. In future, we shall say more about these traitors.
All this was a serious miscalculation by the quislings. In particular, they forgot two factors: the freedom fighters that liberated and defended Uganda in the past and the masses of Uganda who resent foreign meddlers and sectarian parasites. The heroic armed forces, the UPDF, entered the picture, starting with November 20, 2020. The commandos, the military police, the LDUs, other elements of UPDF etc., started operations in Kampala and crushed the insurrection, killing a number of terrorists, such as Joshua Semanda of Makerere Kivulu, who was shot by a woman Commando, the idiot was trying to attack; Alex Serunjoji of Nakivubo channel etc. There are other criminals that died in those confrontations that we are still trying to identify.
Many arrests were made, but many were released. By the time I made mybroadcasts on this and other issues on February 13, 2021, [Special Forces Command] SFC was still “holding” 53 persons. Since that time, two persons have been released, one had a problem of TB. The other 51 have been with SFC, helping them to expose the whole criminal scheme of elements of the Opposition plus their local parasite and foreign backers. Too bad for the traitors. These poor youth, gave us the whole scheme and they are now our friends. “Omukwano guvwa mungabo”, remember traitors, our proverb. Or you have forgotten our proverbs!! Whatever is done in secrecy, will be proclaimed on the roof tops, it says in the Book of Luke Chapter 12, Verse 3.
Therefore, traitors, local parasites and their foreign backers, be informed that the forces that liberated Uganda and have defended it eversince, are there and will always do their duty. When it came to two days before the voting day, about 24,000 soldiers of the UPDF were deployed in most of the 2,184 sub-counties of Uganda to defeat the scheme of the undemocratic Opposition, which was not to allow the elections to take place because they knew that they would lose, unless they intimidated the citizens and stopped them from coming to vote as they did in Kampala.
How would they, then, account to their foreign funders? That scheme failed and elections were held in total peace. Even after the elections, there was total peace. We were ready to crush any insurrection or disruption by the undemocratic groups.
The second factor were the patriotic people of Uganda who resent sectarianism and foreign meddling in our affairs. I thank the sectarian spokesmen and their foreign backers for campaigning for the NRM and for me.
The more they de-campaigned and demonised the NRM and myself, the more they woke Ugandans up. The Ugandans, then, said: “OK. We now know who are behind this scheme” and they massively voted against the scheme, the poor organisation of the NRM managers and greed of some of them, notwithstanding. Especially for the uninformed foreigners, it is not in their interests to keep bumping (kutomera) into issues of Africa.
It is interesting for me to hear ordinary Ugandans saying: “Abazungu bagala kutabura ensi yaffe, kubanga tuzudde amafuta” – “The Whites want to bring upheavals in our country in order to steal our oil”!! It rhymes with what I keep hearing in Congo from the Runyoro-Hema speakers of Bunya, Mbooga etc. They say: “Abajungu tibarikugonza obusinge omunsi yaitu” - “The Whites do not want peace in our country”. In other parts of Eastern Congo, they speak in Swahili: “Wazungu hawataki amaani kwa Congo” – “The Whites do not want peace in Congo”. By “Whites” – “Bazungu” – they are referring to some representatives of Western countries, the UN [United Nations] etc. It is in the interest of those actors, to change that image.
Therefore, “the disappearances” are a consequence of the essentially, treasonable acts of elements of the opposition. It is dishonest for anybody to talk about the mistakes, if any, of the security forces without talking about the origin of the problem: treason, using terrorism by the Opposition. Criticise the army if justified, but also criticise those taking the unconstitutional road of terrorism, intimidation, sectarianism etc.
Yoweri K. Museveni Gen. (rtd)