What you need to know:
- Police allowed back-to-back concerts, processions and events that attract huge attendance. The Independence Grounds, Acacia Avenue, Makindye and Kabalagala have been busier since the alert was issued.
- The National Unity Platform (NUP) Principal, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, and his supporters were the first to dismiss the terror alerts stating that they are intended to stop him from meeting people, especially in Kampala City.
After six explosives were recovered by security personnel in Rubaga Division, Kampala City, President Museveni issued tough guidelines to the members of the public to follow to ensure that the terrorists don’t hit the country again.
Despite the President’s warnings that were followed by foreign diplomatic missions also issuing similar terror alerts, many Ugandans seem to be unbothered by the threats.
Worship places that President Museveni told to ask from each congregant to identify himself or herself by showing their national identity cards before accessing the premises aren’t enforcing that guideline.
Several churches, markets and taxi parks that this publication visited within Kampala City had no extra heightened deployment as was case in previous terror alerts.
Police allowed back-to-back concerts, processions and events that attract huge attendance. The Independence Grounds, Acacia Avenue, Makindye and Kabalagala have been busier since the alert was issued.
The National Unity Platform (NUP) Principal, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, and his supporters were the first to dismiss the terror alerts stating that they are intended to stop him from meeting people, especially in Kampala City.
“As soon as we announced our mobilisation activities, they immediately started issuing those terror threats, which we believe were intended to block us from doing activities in the Kampala Metropolitan area,” Bobi Wine said.
The NUP backs their allegations with the communication they received from the police chiefs as they traversed the countryside.
On September 7, the Director of Police Operations, Mr John Nuwagira, wrote to the Secretary General of NUP, Mr Lewis Rubongoya, directing them to stop mass rallies. He said security agencies had got credible intelligence that Bobi Wine was to be attacked by Allied Democratic Forces rebels during his processions.
“In regard to the referred mobilisation tours, we draw your attention to the prevailing security situation, especially in Kampala Metropolitan area and the country at large…credible information we have got is that terrorists are targeting, among others, the leader of National Unity Platform, Mr Ssentamu Robert Kyagulanyi, with a view of harming him and discredit the government,” Mr Nuwagira’s letter read in part.
The debate on whether the terror alert is real or fake has even penetrated into formal places where security personnel are forced to respond to the doubters.
Since last week, the Ministry of Defence and Veteran Affairs spokesman, Brig Gen Felix Gen Kulayigye and his deputy Col Deo Akiiki, have been consistently stating on several broadcast media that the terror threats are real and they aren’t intended to block the Opposition members from meeting their supporters.
Last week, Brig Kulayigye released a statement that they had carried out a surgical operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday against planners of the explosives they allegedly intercepted in Rubaga Division, Kampala City. Brig Kulayigye promised to give details later.
Terror alerts were one of the most feared messages given the incidents that have rocked the country for decades. The alerts would be followed with panic among the members of the public that at some point, the business community closed their trade before dusk so that they could avoid crowded areas. The security agencies too heightened deployments and enforced standards everywhere. The fear has waned.
In spite of the threats, the leaders of taxi and bus operators told this publication that many of their members and customers have been carried out by the doubters’ message.
Mr Rashid Ssekindi, the chairman at Federation of Uganda Taxi Operators, said although they have tried to enforce the new security guidelines, their clients are so reluctant to be subjected to them.
“Many of our parks are surrounded by the arcades which have uncontrolled entrances into our premises. People who have accessed them don’t want to be checked. Then the alert has been politicised. Some people believe that it was issued intentionally against NUP people, that is why many places aren’t enforcing the standards,” Mr Ssekindi said.
It isn’t the first time the Opposition has accused the government of manipulating terror threats.
In September 2011, during the height of walk-to-work demonstrations, in which the Opposition protested against rising commodity prices, the police issued five terror alerts in just six months.
Mr Muwanga Kivumbi, the NUP MP for Butambala Constituency, who was then a member of Activists for Change, a pressure group behind walk-to-work, said: “It sounds trivial when police issue a terror alert whenever there is demonstration. This is intended to stop people from enjoying their rights. It is unprofessional and puts Ugandans in great danger.”
In October 2013, the police were embarrassed and apologised later when they issued a fake terror alert.
The police claimed that a terrorist, Ahmed Khalid Mueller, wanted by Kenya for his links with al-Shabaab, had sneaked into the country aboard Kampala-bound Kaliita bus, registration number KBF 057N.
“When the bus reached Limulu in Kenya, it stopped and a man, believed to be the suspect, boarded with only a carry-on bag. The bus stopped three kilometres to the border crossing at Busia, and then he disembarked,” the police said.
“A few miles on the Uganda side, the bus stopped and the suspect boarded again. A woman among the passengers, who had seen his “wanted” photo in Nairobi, took his photo as he boarded the bus again,” the police added.
The statement stated that the suspect boarded off the bus on Jinja Road before the bus reached its destination. Police then asked Ugandans to help them trace the suspect since he was about to carry out a terror alert.
However, the owners of Kaliita bus, which police said transported the suspect, refuted the allegations saying the said bus had been in the garage for two weeks.
The Kaliita bus manager took journalists to their garage where the bus was being repaired.