When an MP during an official parliamentary hearing, tells a minister of security to stop reminding Parliament of his bush war sacrifice , you get the feeling that in addition to doing security work, the leaders on both sides need a change of mindset if they are to promote peace and stability in the country.
Security should not be a matter of opposition versus ruling party because that is precisely the situation that the troublemakers want to promote.
But as things are, both sides of the partisan political divide seem to have forgotten that opportunistic criminals and terrorists are very much alive. Yet security is a shared commodity that cannot be enjoyed by one side to the exclusion of the other.
Both Ibrahim Abiriga who was slain in Wakiso and Yassin Kawuma who was slain on behalf of Robert Kyagulanyi in Arua, were Ugandans. So were the late Maria Nagirinya with her driver the late Ronald Kitayimbwa who were abducted in Lungujja, and the late James Kalumba who was abducted in Kajjansi.
The political orientation of the three if any, was unknown and irrelevant, as is that of Maria’s young sister Bernadette, who is living in great fear for her life because the killers know she saw them clearly.
Today, there is no point denying that citizens of Uganda are living in fear of sudden death. The time now should not be to apportion blame but for all leaders regardless of their partisan camps to mobilize the public against violent crime because security is a shared commodity that cannot be consumed by one party to the exclusion of others.
But first of all, all leaders must remember that security is felt, it is not declared. Government officials need to know that the public cannot be reassured by tough statements but by effective actions.
To those whose loved ones are kidnapped and murdered, it does not matter if you have a powerful army operating in different countries and security agencies ensuring that that the government of the day remains in power.
Actually if the murders escalate, it is not only those who have lost immediate family members that will feel the irrelevance of government to them. The feeling will spread, and that is what terrorists and anarchists want.
And more people get murdered for all manner of reasons, opportunistic criminals become emboldened to fix their disputes outside the law. People disputing plots of land will kill others (some are already doing so) and crimes of passion will rise. That is how lawlessness takes root as impunity apparently goes unpunished.
Did it start with Muslim clerics? Or was it ‘bijambiya’ in greater Masaka? Then senior police officers, followed by dozens of young single mothers? Or was it the kidnap for ransom-related killings that followed?
Soon it was mobile money operators, then boda boda riders. Then it seems to be everybody. The current five years (Uganda’s public affairs – elections, development plan…) have been aligned in five year cycles) seem to be the cruelest since the end of Kony’s war.
And although it is murders in Wakiso that mostly make headlines, it is happening in other parts of the country as well.
Why murders seem to be persisting after the installation of security cameras and deployment of LDUs is something for security experts to explain.
The experts could even say that many more crimes have been prevented than the public knows. But this would mean the public doesn’t know whether the state still has the capability to protect them.
The time for public involvement is now. But this cannot be achieved when the political leadership – both from the ruling party and opposition – are still too proud to treat security as a non-partisan matter.
“It’s better to be a bad leader than an irrelevant one”
Consider the recent outburst by Hon Simeo Nsubuga. He is annoyed that he may not be re-elected to parliament in 2021 (in his opinion this would be a great calamity) yet he supported the lifting of presidential age limits. He blames this impending calamity on the ruthless eviction of hundreds of voters in his constituency.
The implication here is that he wouldn’t lose much sleep if people in other constituencies whose MPs didn’t support the lifting got evicted in similar manner. Opposition members are not reacting much better than Nsubuga.
And both sides are missing the point – that when people are insecure, your political colours become irrelevant to them. Other sectors, the media for example, are not doing much better.
Today, our media casually refers to “the spot in Mukono district where bodies of murder victims are dropped” implying that neither the security forces nor residents are alert enough, or care at all, to follow such obvious leads to fight crime.
The reported reaction of police officers who tell a distressed son reporting his father’s abduction to tell the kidnappers to report immediately to police (Kajjansi) does not inspire much confidence. Nor does that of an officer on duty at Old Kampala police rebuking a distressed father for disturbing his sleep by coming to report the kidnap of his daughter.
And the criminals love this this kind of reporting, which subconsciously reinforces the helplessness of the population and emboldens the killers. Every criminal would love to operate in such an environment!
If for no other reason than to look relevant, the political leaders on both sides need to join hands to address the insecurity facing the society.
They have come together before, as happens when they are fighting for more allowances and privileges. They can come together again to address the insecurity. It is also for their good, for it is even better to be regarded as a bad leader than an irrelevant one.
As leaders do their bit to mobilize the citizenry against crime, the security agencies must give the professional guidance to the effort.
Fighting crime needs intelligence and those who have been trained and facilitated should play their part. The starting point is for intelligence services to stay out of partisan politics on either side.
An intelligence officer loses the plot once s/he fails to control his/her partisan political leanings. They will lack the ability to distinguish between the public interest from that of their candidate.
They will no longer be professional and thus become a liability to the very society whose security they are supposed to preserve.
The reorientation may appear huge but it has to start. All Ugandans need to treat security like a road – it is for the service of everybody. A potholed, muddy road cannot become a smooth paved highway just because a ruling party politician has so declared. And the opposition politician must help to pave it – it is everybody’s duty.
The writer is a respected seasoned journalist