On Monday morning, a Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldier ran amok and shot dead four people in Nansana Municipality, Wakiso District. Lance Corporal Denis Omara shot dead Rita Nabayungo, a mother of three, who was travelling in a vehicle with her husband and children.
He also shot dead Police Constable Isaac Nimirunji and Local Defence Unit personnel Abraham Masereka and John Wafula when they tried to restrain him. Police Constable David Ochen and two civilians were injured in the incident.
Monday’s occurrence is unfortunately not an isolated incident, but the latest in a long list of incidents where members of the armed forces have opened fire on civilians and their colleagues.
Government should ensure that a lasting solution to this problem is found because the role of members of the security forces is, among others, to protect the people and their property, not to terrorise them.
All those who apply to join the armed forces should be subjected to rigorous psychiatric evaluation to ensure that mentally unstable individuals are not given guns and lethal skills that they could use against innocent people who they are supposed to protect.
Besides, members of the armed forces should be given adequate counselling services to enable them cope with challenges that arise in the course of executing their duties.
Some soldiers are deployed in war zones such as Somalia where they are exposed to traumatic conditions and they later develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Such servicemen and women should be given psychiatric help to enable them perform their duties in an ethical manner.
Those who are deemed to be unable to continue performing their duties in an ethical way due to psychiatric challenges should be discharged from the armed forces for the good of the people and the country.
Furthermore, the UPDF High Command should consider reintroducing chaplains in army units to nourish soldiers’ spiritual needs and reinforce their moral values.
These chaplains can work hand-in-hand with counsellors to enable soldiers cope with challenges they face while executing their duties.
The government should also provide sufficient training to members of the armed forces and paramilitary groups such as Local Defence Unit to ensure that they do not misuse the guns they are entrusted with.
Some members of the armed forces are trigger-happy and resort to using guns in situations where non-lethal means could have resolved problems. On several occasions, military, police and LDU personnel have opened fire on unarmed demonstrators.
Members of the armed forces who engage in such acts should be held personally liable and prosecuted.