UPDF decline to finger-print guns

Police officers in Kyoga Region prepare firearms for fingerprinting in September, 2019. Photo/ Uganda Police Force

What you need to know:

  • The acting Director of Forensic Services, SP Andrew Mubiru, recently said the ballistic database system had enabled police link firearms to 156 different crimes across the country since finger-printing of guns started in late 2018.

The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) have not embarked on finger-printing guns nearly 32 months after President Museveni in his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, ordered all firearms to be forensically recorded.
Gen Museveni issued the directive in June 2018 following a spate of killings in which shooters on motorbikes gunned down high-profile citizens and fled without trace.

 Some of the prominent victims killed between 2015 and 2018 include the then Arua Municipality Member of Parliament (MP) Ibrahim Abiriga, former police spokesperson Andrew Felix Kaweesi and former Buyende District police commander Muhammad Kirumira.
 Others were Rtd Maj Mohammad Kiggundu and principal state prosecutor Joan Kagezi alongside several Muslim clerics, among them, Kibuli faction spokesperson Hassan Kirya.

 “I have [ordered] the sub-committee of the National Security Council that all guns must be fingerprinted by firing each gun a number of times in controlled conditions to capture the fingerprints of each one,” Gen Museveni told Parliament in June 2018 during an address of security situation in the country.
 He added: “That will mean that if any legal gun in Uganda is used, we shall know which gun was used and since we know who is carrying which gun, we shall easily know the crime perpetrator.”

Our investigations show that police began finger-printing guns three months after the presidential directive and nearly 96.7 per cent of firearms used by the force personnel had been finger-printed by January 6.
The Uganda Prison Services reports that they had taken cartridge samples of 99.98 per cent of their guns.
Official records show that eight of every 10 firearms used by private security have been finger-printed and half of guns licensed for private use by individuals have been finger-printed.  

In total, as of last month, 67,321 firearms had been finger-printed.
The team tasked to finger-print the guns had also aimed to cover the military, but they ended the exercise last year without doing so.
Brig Flavia Byekwaso, the Defence and military spokesperson, on Wednesday said she had no information about planned finger-printing of guns and could not explain the lack of progress.

The army, according to its size and its dispersed nature of operations in and outside the country, renders its personnel in different branches to possess the highest number of firearms. In addition, it has multiple intelligence agencies whose members also carry guns, both for operations and self-protection.
A highly-placed security source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the military was concerned that State opponents with access to the finger-printed firearm database, and working in concert with enemies of Uganda, could frame the country and its armed personnel over external missions.

The military reportedly only wants the guns marked, but not finger-printed for security reasons.
Mr Museveni ordered finger-printed of all firearms in the hands of security forces so that cartridges retrieved from crime scenes can, through ballistic analysis, be matched to the bullet discharge gun and user.    
There is no official explanation on why the military has not complied with the directive of the Commander-in-Chief more than two-and-a-half years later.

Some elements, particularly Local Defence Unit personnel rehatted under army command, were on various occasions accused during lockdown of shooting dead civilians in the course of enforcement of standard operating procedures (SOPs) and curfews.
The BBC reported last year that Ugandan security forces had killed about a dozen citizens while enforcing Covid-19 rules from March, last year, even before the pandemic claimed a person in Uganda.

And on November 18 and 19, 2020, more than 54 people were shot dead and scores injured as a cocktail of security operatives cracked down on protestors after arrest of the then presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine.
Although President Museveni said more than two dozens of people killed were innocent, police investigators have not established the firearms that were used in the shootings. 
There is also no update on the progress with the inquiries that have attracted international attention.  

In August 2019, Maj Kakooza Mutale, the special presidential assistant for political affairs, asked the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen David Muhoozi, in writing to give him unmarked guns for unspecified “covert operations”.
Gen Muhoozi spurned the request, insisting then that all guns must be finger-printed as directed by the Commander-in-Chief and he also barred Maj Mutale from conducting operations.