What you need to know:
- Then, as he held his car door open, he introduced himself as an Intelligence Officer with the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence.
On July 11, 2010, several bombs rocked Kampala.
These bombs touched off countrywide mourning as Ugandans were yanked out of a shared comfort zone and hurtled into a national out-of-body experience.
At the scene of the biggest bomb blast, Lugogo, sullen onlookers lined the street while case-hardened security personnel ringed off the area.
At the time, I was at Game megastore, right across the road.
While there, I received a call from my cousin. She wanted to know if I was alright.
As we spoke, I told her “we expected this”.
For, at the time, I worked in the Nakasongola Military Cantonment and it had been on High Alert for weeks as checkpoints sprouted across the barracks.
When I had completed my conversation with my cousin, a muscleman so big he could’ve been a black Goliath approached me.
Politely, he said that he wanted to speak with me.
I agreed since his imposing frame appeared ready to feature in an action film, as an army of muscle!
He then led me outside the megastore, towards his waiting car.
Then, as he held his car door open, he introduced himself as an Intelligence Officer with the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence.
He thereupon told me that my earlier comment---the “we expected this” remark I made to my cousin---was suspicious.
And so, I was now a suspected terrorist!
As he “fired” me with questions, I noticed that the backseats of his grey Ipsum were ominously gone.
They were probably ripped out with the aid of his gym-honed biceps.
As I trembled in my proverbial boots, I volunteered all my autobiographical details to help him understand that I was not Osama Bin Laden.
Seemingly satisfied, he ordered me to “get home quick” or face my own personal Waterloo.
The next morning, he called me to say that he wanted to return my documents to me.
So we met.
After he returned my documents, he said he had driven all the way to Nakasongola to prove I was indeed not the de facto boss of Al Shabab.
So, he said, he wanted “facilitation” because he had driven all the way to Nakasongola on “my own money”.
Shocked, I asked him how much money. Not in the least bashful, he told me that he wanted Shs200,000..
I told him I would reach the bank and get it.
I never did.
This episode made me realize that in a Mafia state such as ours, even intelligence gathering is an opportunity for extortion racketeering.
Amongst any Mafiosi, extortion is an effective means of intimidation and exploitation characterized by protection rackets.
These arise out of circumstances where money is paid by a victim in exchange for a normal life.
Extortion thrives best with the presence of vulnerable targets, few institutional safeguards and motivated criminal actors.
Hence, the “officer” who approached me was cleaving to a movie-like script that was written, directed and produced by the actual Uga-wood: Uganda’s government.
This Uga-wood has originated several B-rated dramatic productions such as “No Time To Die” (The Bush War) and “Ocean Eleven” (NRM’s Kitchen Cabinet).
On a serious note, though, how can we expect this government to successfully fight terrorism when its own operatives profit from it?
What happened to me is surely happening to many others as widespread and systematic abuses of power become the norm.
Oh yes, this government continues to violate our constitutional rights in the name of protecting the country against (often imaginary) enemies.
In so doing, it tacitly acknowledges that it no longer has our love and so it must instead have our fear.
Mr Matogo is a professional copywriter