COMMENT | Samson Tinka | On 18th November 2020, Kampala was the epicenter of deadly riots that hit part of the country, and over 50 people died while over 100 sustained both serious and minor injuries.
Businesses were interrupted, tyres burnt, roads illegally closed, women and children were caught up in this fracas.
My wife and her team who were in Nasana became targets because of their tribe. Personally, the riots found me in Lugogo and it was a tag of war to move from there to Entebbe road where I reside. The rest is history.
I will not interest myself whether the riots were legitimate or not. Whether it’s a constitutional right for one to protest, or even riot or not.
Its important for us to know and appreciate that no one should die any death apart from natural one or death sanctioned by courts of law. I therefore grieve with families that lost their beloved ones during the riots.
I am however reviewing the whole incident and in order to put you in the mind of the the security forces who were faced with the above scenario. Of course notwithstanding individual errors committed by either police or military officers.
Security officers are always either in their offices or barracks in peace. If you moved to Kiseka today, apart from the nearby police post, you will unlikely see any uniformed police officer on street. These security guys are simply forced to appear on street.
Kiseka market commonly known as Bengazi is a security black spot. Its known for bad guys for along time.
In fact, these guys are not only rioters but also criminal in mind. Most civilians who occasionally take their cars for fixing in Kiseka market have been robbed or billed for car spare parts not used.
The same area is known for harboring phone and bag snatchers. Not long ago, many guns were recovered from same place. Therefore, security officers know that Kiseka market area is not an ordinary area. When responding to riots in this area, it must be a full force response due to historical reasons and experiences.
Second, it is evident that rioters target security officers with intention to harm them. Many security officers have either been hurt, injured or killed.
Everyone knows that security forces are primarily trained to use force. Security agencies are not humanitarian officers, red cross staff or medical or psychological counsellors. Their training, orientation and practice is by use of force.
To make matters worse, Ugandans increasingly do not listen to law officers e.g traffic policemen or guards, and are argumentative, don’t listen, have no respect, like confrontational situations, disrespect security officers.
The result is that security officers, faced with a dangerous situation, will not take the chance of talking to the law breakers.
Often my colleagues like Edrin Ashaba and Collins T blame me of being one sided. Whereas they are entitled to their opinions and observations, they all agree that riots are started by civilians thus acknowledge that in the absence of starting of these riots certainly no life would have been lost.
The shooting, injuries, death should be blamed on those who are the cause, the start the bad game. Its illogical to accuse the effect than the cause.
Let civilians stay away from riots, stealing, destructing, inconveniencing business fraternity, certainly no battles and deaths will be recorded. We have seen non violent riots which have yielded results.
Thirdly, outside riots, there is enough evidence that Ugandans behaviors, personal conduct are slowly but steadily deteriorating. The would-be shock absorber to that effect is church community-pastors, reverend, bishops etc. They seem to be setting a bad example.
We continue seeing clergy committing different crimes. Hence the public is now left to to their own as far as moral and behavior rebuilding is concerned.
Its vital for us to appreciate that these security officers are recruited from us, they are our brothers, sisters, uncles, and neighbors.
What we give the forces, is what is trained and deployed.
That’s why during recruitment they ask for people of high integrity and educated. We must appreciate that these officers also have personal and institutional challenges like remuneration, housing facilities, lack of experience etc.
All these have direct impact on their efficiency during work execution.
We must be mindful that this is a growing democracy that is subject to all defects. Blaming and counter blaming may not be the right medicine for the challenges faced by this country.
Coming together and being respectful seem to be the required game changer. Lack of respect in our homes, schools, offices, work, on the way seem to be missing link. The day we agree to respect all peoples, rules and regulations without much questioning is the day as a country will start seeing some light.
In all this, some facts can not be altered and these include the need to stay safe, avoid crowds , observing COVID 19 SOPs. Also make it a habit to follow social media updates to know what going on around you and respect security officers whether they are wrong or right.
These guys carry fire arms. A gun is fired to kill not to scare. If you want to scare birds in the garden, you sound drums.
Police is permitted to exercise force to protect people and themselves. The rest of the details will either find you dead, in the hospital or home depending upon the part you play during riots. Unfortunately, some bystanders sometimes are victims of circumstances.
To all Ugandans, a reminder that14th January 2021, will be a normal day like others. Let these elections not compromise our common sense, logic and understanding.
Your mother, father, wife, hubby or children want you alive. Stop being the first target. Stay safe and stay well. Uganda is for us all. Let it be the Uganda we want. Stopping criminality starts with me and you.
Samson Tinka is a safety and security expert.