Several killings later, no action from Uganda government

Saturday September 15 2018

President Yoweri Museveni addressing the country at State House. He has issued several statements on killings that are yet to be solved. PHOTO | AFP


In March 2012, when prominent Muslim cleric Sheikh Abdul Karim Ssentamu was fatally shot as he left a mosque, President Yoweri Museveni and security heads promised to "hunt," "get" or "apprehend" the killers.

Six years and at least 17 murders later, the police have neither resolved his killing nor any of the others, save for 14 suspects who were acquitted of charges of terrorism, murder and attempted murder of other Muslim clerics, and 12 other suspects accused of the other murders.

The president, at the height of the killing of Muslim clerics, blamed the Congo-based rebel group, Allied Democratic Forces, and he would later blame the same group for the murder of senior government prosecutor Joan Kagezi and former police spokesperson Felix Kaweesi.

In making the comments on the ADF link, the president was reading from what was evidently a brief from his security chiefs, especially the now disgraced former inspector general of police Kale Kayihura, who in many of the cases, made the same claims at murder scenes he visited.

Addressing the nation on June 7, this year, President Museveni said, “The ADF criminals in Congo will answer for the killings of our people even when they are hiding in Congo. Their only safety is for them to voluntarily surrender and seek amnesty. If however, they were to re-enter Uganda, they would be promptly and decisively defeated.”

But the president did not announce to the nation that the alleged group’s leader Jamil Mukulu had been arrested in April 2015 by Tanzania’s security who handed him over to Uganda.


But the killings continued. On December 28, 2014, when Sheikh Mustafa Bahiga was shot dead at Bwebajja Mosque on Entebbe Road, President Museveni said the killing could be part of wrangles within the Muslim community.

The President also expressed dissatisfaction with the Judiciary. “This is unacceptable. Why does the judiciary release on bail somebody charged with such a serious crime?” he said.

Then on March 8, this year, four years after her murder, speaking on the occasion marking International Women’s Day in Mityana, the president announced that he had information regarding the killers of Ms Kagezi and that action would be taken. No arrest has been made to date.

'Clean the police'

On the morning of March 17, 2017, Assistant Inspector General of Police Felix Kaweesi was gunned down together with his bodyguard Kenneth Erau and driver Godfrey Mambewa as they were driving out of his home in Kulambiro, a Kampala suburb.

This time the president blamed the police. Speaking at a vigil at the deceased’s home on March 19, 2017, President Museveni said that the police force needed to be ‘’cleaned’’ as it had been infiltrated by criminals. He ordered immediate installation of CCTV cameras in the Kampala metropolitan area and along major highways.

“Some of these [security] groups are infiltrated by criminals. So, you get a situation where they are intimidating witnesses, sometimes killing witnesses. They leak [witness] information [to criminals]. The police has been infiltrated by criminals. Kale [Kayihura] you must clean the police especially the CID,” he ordered.

The president assured mourners that all “pigs” who murdered Kaweesi would be killed unless they surrendered to police, repeating a familiar statement that the ruling National Resistance Movement had defeated many criminal groups including the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel leader Joseph Kony, ADF rebels and Karimojong cattle rustlers.

Between May and September last year, 23 women were mysteriously murdered in the areas of Entebbe and Wakiso district. The president visited the communities on September 26, 2017.

“The wananchi gave me valuable information. We have previously dealt with and defeated more sophisticated crime, including terrorism. We shall apprehend those behind these killings,” President Museveni said.

Over 13 suspects were later arrested and are facing trial.

'False belief'

On January 1, 2018, a gang attacked four villages in Lwengo and Bukomansimbi districts killing five people. On January 4, when the president visited the bereaved families, he assured them of justice and that the attackers “will be killed.”

“I am saddened by these deaths but we have got clues and we shall get the attackers. They think that they will kill people and they will not be killed. That is a false belief,” he said.

While delivering the state of the nation address on June 6 this year, the president assured the country that security was guaranteed and that the government had put in place mechanisms to build the intelligence gathering capacity in urban areas and on highways.

Two days later on June 8, former Arua municipality legislator Ibrahim Abiriga together with his bodyguard Saidi Kongo were gunned down by assailants riding on motorcycles.

The president said there was a high probability that Abiriga’s killing was political because of his commitment to the NRM, adding that the “cowardly idiots” behind the murder would be defeated wherever they are.

He asked the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga to convene a special session for him to address the House on security matters. He did on June 20.

In his address to legislators the president reassured the world that Uganda was safe and that his government had the capacity to guarantee the safety of all people in Uganda. He then presented a 10-point road map towards the same.

This included the installation of scanners at borders, tracking social media users, the use of drones to spot criminals, revival of the police emergency system, physical deployment of police, introduction of electric number plates and helmets, installation of CCTV cameras and fingerprinting all guns.

As recent as last week on September 8, three months after the president’s address to parliament, a fierce critic of the police force who also happens to be a serving policeman Muhammad Kirumira was assassinated. The president visited the crime scene three hours later, and left with two eyewitnesses to the crime.

More talk

In a statement later that day, the president said that the criminals were still using the gaps he identified in his speech to parliament earlier on June 20.

“The Police Force is working hard to fill the gaps. They have started installing the cameras and other measures are being put in place,” he said.

Following Kirumira’s killing, Ugandans took to social media to express their hopelessness in the state of security. One post summed it up: “If they can kill a senior police officer, and an MP, what about a simple Ugandan?”

At a press conference in State House, Entebbe on September 9, the president ordered the deployment and arming of 24,000 Local Defence Unit officers in over 1,000 villages of Kampala and Wakiso districts for a year, which will cost the country Ush57 billion ($15 million).

The move has however attracted criticisms from security experts and opposition politicians who argue that more guns in communities will increase crime.

The president has called for yet another conference on September 15 to address the state of security.

Human rights lawyer and representative of the accused Ladslus Rwakafuuzi told The EastAfrican that the random arrests of innocent people by the police is based on prejudice against Muslims, pressure from political leaders and the need to show the public that the police are doing their job.

It’s over one year now since Kaweesi’s murder and his case file shows nothing of an investigation being conducted even as reports allege that the president had taken direct charge of supervising the investigations, while no arrests have been made in the Kagezi murder case.

The president had hinted that he knew the main suspect in the murder case, whom word on the street claimed had fled the country. On September 9, the president asked the police in public why they had not apprehended the suspect.