Uganda's Museveni at pains to arrest rot in security agencies, address killings

Saturday June 23 2018

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni dons a hooded jacket. AFP

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni dons a hooded jacket, explaining to motorbike taxi drivers how not to wear them. He was addressing a special session of the Parliament on security on June 20, 2018. PHOTO | AFP 

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One day after President Yoweri Museveni’s highly anticipated address on security, a funeral service was held in Kampala of a lawyer, the latest victim of marauding iron bar hitmen.

Roland Mugisha was clobbered to death near his gate in the affluent neighbourhood of Najeera.

The killing, which police initially dismissed, saying that the lawyer had collapsed after a drunken night out but later withdrew, presents the underbelly of the head of state’s nine interventionist measures he promised will restore the country to its once renown as an oasis of security in a volatile Great Lakes region.

The president issued the measures in a bid to calm an anxious population following high profile murders that on June 8 claimed Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga and his brother.

While security of person and property was key, a bigger worry for the Ugandan leader is the discomforting reality that the regime is at war with itself.

In a previous interview, a security source told The EastAfrican of infighting between various agencies that was undermining national security and that this bickering was largely responsible for the deterioration of security.

Security has been President Museveni’s forte and the glue that has held together his regime in his more than three-decade rule, thus a series of murders not only served to unsettle an anxious public but also eroded the credibility of his regime as well as eat away at the bases on which it held.

Veiled admission

Thus, that Museveni avoided or ignored, to a large extent, the alleged internal wrangling, the human element in various security agencies and personnel implementing the nine measures to arrest the situation has left many questioning their efficacy.

Top of these measures is the order that all guns belonging to security agencies should be fingerprinted — a veiled admission that the killer weapons are property of the armed forces or that the killers were security service operatives.

The fact that Mr Museveni is publicly pointing fingers at his own security agencies reveals that the infighting has reached alarming levels.

“I have issued an order to the National Security Council that all guns should be fingerprinted,” President Museveni told a special sitting of Parliament on Wednesday June 20.

But on that day, the President yet again revealed that some of these crimes were a result of “negligence and even collusion with the criminals with elements in the security forces has been part of the problem”.

How soon the measures can rid the country of criminality is of concern, as most of the proposed guidelines are long-term while others, like the use of drones requires security personnel to be trained, oriented and equipped with skills to detect crime.

“Security deployment takes time and money. Even if we get the equipment, good machines without proper skills in counterintelligence to use them, is counterproductive,” said Freddie Egesa, a private investigator.

Security budget

For instance, besides fingerprinting of guns, the president also proposed measures like deployment of drones, building a modern forensic laboratory to collect palm prints, thumb prints, and to process DNA material including blood, sweat and hair to support criminal investigations and install security cameras along highways, roads and streets.

Others include establishing a real Flying Squad for rapid response, equipped with drones to respond to public calls, monitor and detect crime, establish regulations for importation and use of drones, to acquire equipment to stop misuse of social media by criminals and for Uganda Revenue Authority to acquire more scanners to inspect goods to counter illegal importation of firearms.

It is not clear how the country can afford all this as the cost of this security package is not contained in the budget allocations for 2018/19 presented recently, Leader of Opposition Winnie Kiiza says.

Uganda’s security budget has been increasing since 2016/17, at $408.6 million, rising to $503.3 million in 2017/18. The 2018/19 security budget is $543.7 million, but in addition to the security package the president has outlined, this allocation has to fund other routine tasks of the security agencies. Whether the country can deliver all this off this budget is the big question.

“If it is not in the budget, then obviously there is a big problem. Government can go the way of classified expenditure or even borrow. Either way, it is a problem,” says a security source.

Other costs for installation of car number plates with electronic chips for tracking as well as illuminating numbers on helmets of boda boda cyclists will borne by the owners.

The killings

The killers have evolved their methods. The killings in Entebbe and Nansana that targeted women used rape and strangulation and stuffing victims’ private parts with objects. The official count for these stopped at 26.

Then followed a wave of kidnaps and demands for ransom with some victims getting killed. A notable kidnap and murder was that of City Hospital accountant Godfrey Ekalungar whose charred remains were found on a roadside in Kajansi between Kampala and Entebbe.

An estimated $5,000 he was apparently taking to the bank and his car were stolen. Investigations reveal he was kidnapped in broad daylight.

The latest was Susan Magara, a 28-year-old daughter of businessman Fizgerald Magara who was murdered despite the family paying $200,000 ransom.