Ugandans face theoretical moral dilemma. Every other day, you are likely to hear of somebody who has been brutally murdered. It is hard to tell how we got here after years of being used to a very secure environment.
Kampala was even being called East Africa’s entertainment capital, then somehow we started losing it. Now human life gets snuffed out ‘‘just like that.’’
The dilemma is that we have a relatively tolerant government, compared with many.
An intolerant dictatorship would not tolerate wanton killing by every Tom Dick and Harry.
A dictatorship would be the only one in charge of the killing, by killing those threatening its political power.
Under our tolerant system, you are free to do almost anything including denouncing the government every morning when you wake up and every night as you retire to bed.
The government does not kill you but the guy who suspects that there is something between you and his girlfriend hires a hitman for $35 and they finish you off. Or he sends the hitman after the girl and finishes her off. Or he targets both lovebirds and dispatches them to the next world at total cost of $70.
You may be living a pious life, not messing with anybody’s ‘‘things,’’ but you are unlucky to have inherited a piece of land that some rich person wants.
It doesn’t even have to be a rich person, since some killers reportedly charge $35 a hit. So if you try to resist the grabbing of your land, you become a target for killing. Or you might be promoted to a job that somebody else thinks they were more entitled to, after doing what it takes like paying or sleeping with someone. So you get bumped off, ‘‘just like that.’’
Then there are political killings, but not done by the government. There are some suspicions that to discredit the government, some forces can conduct killings of highly visible people.
For over a year, it was a season for killing Muslim clerics. A hit list was circulated and a dozen or so on the list were bumped off one by one.
When the killings started a few years ago, even simple villagers were targeted. Machete-wielding gangs would go to a village and start hacking people.
And this would be after sending warning letters that they were coming.
Then there was a season for killing young single mothers in the greater Kampala area. Then a couple of top cops were knocked off. Arrests are made when the killing is high profile but you rarely get a successful prosecution.
Matters are not helped when security officers employ gangster-style to arrest suspects. Men in civilian clothes who do not identify themselves attack their target, abduct and take off.
Later the victim turns up under state custody. So the real gangsters also take cue and also surround then abduct a target and take off.
Family and friends search in police and security installations, only to be told that “the body” has been seen somewhere. There is even a place some 50 kilometres east of Kampala that the media casually refer to as the spot where bodies are dropped after the murders.
It is under such conditions that some start wishing for a stronger approach to security.
Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. Email:[email protected]