By Patrick Kagenda
Political opposition leader, Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, spoke to The Independent’s Patrick Kagenda about why he has formed a militia-like force called the TJ Team.
What prompted you into raising a militia force?
In the first place it is a misnomer to call it a militia. I don’t believe in warlordism, I don’t believe in anarchy, and I don’t believe in violence because essentially a militia is intended to wreak havoc, cause anarchy and mayhem generally. That is not my intention or of this team.
Ours is a team of committed Ugandans who have come up to defend the peace of people. You realise we are dealing with a very fragile political environment whereby the country is almost about to be plunged into chaos. Government can no longer protect all of us especially in the political circles.
The police are a partisan force and its main function now is regime protection; that is what it is pre-occupied with. In addition to that, they are training militias under the banner of wealth creation, patriotism, and crime prevention which of course is outside the parameters of the law. Worse still Maj. Kakooza Mutale,a known UPDF officer, is training vigilantes for campaign purposes and what he termed as protection of Mulalo (cattle keeper) on his way to state power.
That portends doom for this country, it is a recipe for chaos, and calls for a response from us not in the same currency or the same language but in terms of the provision in Article 3 of the constitution which clearly puts a burden on all Ugandans, all citizens to defend the given constitutional order and also resist any tendencies or any person who will attempt to overthrow the given constitutional order or cause the sorts of illegal activities of Mutale and the crime preventers.
The second aspect is self-defense which is well known within our legal instruments. In the face of those imminent threats from the likes of Kakooza Mutale, the stick wielding crime preventers, the NRM cadres who are also undergoing training and being passed out by President Museveni and many others, you can see the stage is set for election violence. In such a situation, you need also to prepare for self-defense.
Many people see starting a militia/self-defense group is dangerous to society, how will you ensure that you control it?
True and I know when you are involved in activities of that nature you can even get infiltrators and even instilling discipline in such groups is not easy and creates a tight situation that can explode into something that will be difficult to manage, I am aware of that.
But we are now held between a rock and a hard surface. What do you do in such situations? It is the problem of impunity we are dealing with because there would be other options; probably we use parliament to call Kakooza Mutale to order or use the judiciary to reign in his activities but all these institutions are helpless.
Under such circumstances what do you do? We have no other option – nowhere to turn because the country is almost on the tipping edge of becoming a failed state.
By setting up a self-defense group are you trying to say security agencies are not doing their job. Would you be happy to see every Ugandan with a personal militia or group, wouldn’t that scare you?
We are headed to a Somalia of sorts, I am telling you. I am afraid it is a serious matter because every Imam or Sheikh you find in town has a security guard. So which capacity do the police have to protect all religious leaders, politicians, eminent persons and all other Ugandans? By the way, each and every Ugandan is entitled to security.
The kind of security police are according to Ugandans – if I may use the digital language-is analogue, crude, and rudimentary. But most importantly and to get the bigger picture, the security agencies are turning against the very civilian authority to which they are supposed to be subordinate.
The police force function under Article 212 of the constitution is clearly to maintain law and order. But they have become the source of insecurity. Ugandans know this. Police hire out guns to criminals, are bent on regime protection, persecute the opposition, and have become extremely partisan.
As for the army, President Museveni always says it is his own institution, that the army belongs to him. The police is militarised, all the NRM cadres are being trained and armed, you see so many plain cloth NRM cadres some in yellow T-shits and they are armed. The boda-boda cyclists are armed. So how do you contend with that kind of situation? They want us to die like rats and I am not one of those people ready to die like a rat.
As a lawyer is this what you have found as a legal means of handling grievances?
The constitution commands us in Article 3 to defend the will of the people, to defend the sovereignty of this country, and also to face off any person who would attempt to overthrow the established order.
So a person who rigs elections is akin to a criminal who commits treason. When you use stick-welding people to come and clobber us, you are violating the constitution. If you are using militias like Kakooza Mutale is doing, you are overthrowing the constitution. Crime preventers and so on are established against the provisions of the constitution, so they are overthrowing the constitution.
The only logical response would be to prepare the citizenry. That is the symbolism of the outfit we have established. It cannot police the entire country but it is to send out a message and energise Ugandans of a duty under Article 3 to rise up, to use whatever means you have to defend your rights, to defend the state, and to deal with these elements who are trying to wreak havoc and cause anarchy in this country. These are warlords, deal with them.
The other important aspect would be protection of our vote. At a national level we have about 25,000 polling stations and at each polling station we are supposed to have two agents as a presidential candidate.
It may not be me but any person who would be ultimately be chosen by the The Democratic Alliance would be required to have at least 50,000 polling agents, that excludes supervisors, monitors, and those who supply food etc.
So you need a big team of trained people who are going to man that exercise, it is not a mean exercise. Personally in Kampala here when I stood as the Lord Mayor, we had 1,450 close to 1,500 polling stations and that would translate into around 3,000 polling agents. That is a big army of cadres and these are people who are going to protect your interests. We are talking about a complex exercise that is both political and legal. So you need to equip them with the requisite skills, you need to train them on the elementaries like how a DR form should look like, how it should be filled, who is qualified to vote, etc. Above all you also need to train them in other skills of how to deal with violent situations, if violence has erupted and the Kibooko squad has struck; what you do?
Our work is not to act as a sword, to be on the offensive, to attack the state, or the cadres or the militias being trained by the NRM government. No;we are to prepare the citizenry for self-defense. That is what we are doing.
The police have warned you?
Police is threatening. If indeed what we are doing was against the law they would have arrested us a long time ago. We have not been summoned even to CIID to explain ourselves. Police is still scratching around to see if there is any provision of the law we have offended. Don’t forget I am a lawyer and for that matter I combed through the laws before I took a decision to go into these activities. We are not that reckless that we would veer off the constitutional path for the sake of pursuing our political interests.
Problem comes in when you train militias like what Kakooza Mutale is doing or these so-called crime preventers or the NRM cadres who are being passed out by President Museveni. To arm them, give them military hardware or anything – that is dangerous. That is why I am telling you we are creating a Somalia here. It wouldn’t auger well if you created various centers of warlords with each warlord commanding their troops. That is dangerous for this country. But the message we are putting across is for people to feel confident and appreciate the need to protect the sovereignty of this state and to deal with whoever would come out with plans of subverting the will of the people.