Dire price looms if excesses of military are not checked

A video grab of a military police officer harassing a traffic policeman for failing to clear the way for them. 

What you need to know:

  • The issue: Indiscipline 
  • Our view: There is no longer a need to execute another Cpl Omediyo and Pte Mohammed to instill discipline, but there is a lot more heads of the military can do.

In March 2002, two UPDF soldiers, Cpl James Omediyo and Pte Abdullah Mohammed, were summarily executed by firing squad after being found guilty, on their own confession, of killing Fr Declan O’Toole and two parishioners the Irish priest was travelling with in Karamoja.

At the time, soldiers spent their time either in the barracks or on the frontline. Those who were seen on the streets carried themselves with so much discipline, giving wananchi a sense of security – despite isolated cases in bars or here-and-there.

But everything has changed. If it is not a journalist being clobbered in broad daylight, it is another mwananchi being molested for reasons no one ever gets to know. When they are not using batons, it is the bullet.

And nobody is safe. Nobody, maybe with the exception of the President and his immediate family, for now.

Earlier this week, this newspaper’s digital team published a video clip showing a military officer rudely dragging a Traffic Police officer by the collar in public. In January, a Traffic Police officer, Robert Mukebezi, had his leg amputated after taking a bullet from soldiers as he responded to duty to tow away a military vehicle involved in an accident.

That the military continues to flaunt such excesses in public is telling of what more they are doing beyond the realms of lenses and human eyes. This should be a concern not just for wananchi but even the top officials in government as well as the military themselves.

The dark history of our recent past should be the stark reminder that a UPDF General taking possession of a piece of land and proceeding with construction in total disregard of both the local authority and court of law is not something that can be wished away. This, like the impunity displayed in clobbering civilians or manhandling police officers, reflect loss of discipline in the military.

While it is easy to forge ahead with the politics of allowing a little stench in exchange for the military’s support in grander political schemes, when discipline is completely flushed down the drain, there is hardly any mask that can cover the country from the consequences of this same stench.

There is no longer a need to execute another Cpl Omediyo and Pte Mohammed to instill discipline, but there is a lot more heads of the military can do. The fact that a soldier would molest a civilian or even a police officer in public just days after another is reported to have been convicted of similar charges perhaps shows that there is no deterrent punishment being meted out.

History must not repeat itself under our watch.