By Onghwens Kisangala
Many incidences of security concerns in Uganda have surfaced in the last few years. The central and western part of the country that had been perceived to be at peace is today under security threats; iron bar hit-men, ritual murderers, schools and markets burning, errant security officers shooting at people among others. The Independents Onghwens Kisangala talked to an NRA bush veteran, retired Maj. John Kazoora about these change of events. Below are excerpts.
There have been different trends of insecurity in our country in the last one year, where several facilities have been burnt, the iron bar and ritual killings, errant security officers shooting people and others. Why is Uganda degenerating to this level?
When you are studying political science or management; you will be told that there is a state. In our case here, the president heads the state. Now, the state is the guarantor of security uncontested. That is why we pay taxes to the state. That is why there are security agents recognised by the constitution; the police, ESO, ISO and the others. What are they there for? They are there mainly to protect people’s lives and their property. But, what are they working for now? They are working to maintain President Yoweri Museveni in power. They would want to know what we are talking here. Otherwise, why should killings be taking place. In the Ten Point Programme, point number 1) was democracy and number 2) was security. With the war won, those should have also been settled, but we are talking about 23 years of stability and people are still being clobbered with iron bars!
That is what makes it strange. Why is this happen now?
Because there is impunity! Look at this Magara [Ramathan] murder case. Somebody shoots in unarmed crowd and they say, they got him and took him to police. This is a soldier mark you. Now Besigye [Kizza] is accused of treason, not murder and they say he must be tried in the court martial, Kazini is accused of causing financial loss to the army and they want him in court martial. This one who has murdered people is taken to a civilian court. So, these criminals will look at the lapses in dispensing justice and will exploit that.
From time to time, the police have arrested people and recovered illigal fire arms from them. How did our society plague into this degree of lawlessness?.
The issue is that there are so many guns all over but the interesting thing is that government does not know where all these guns are. I attended a conference on small arms here in Kampala and Minister Matia Kasaija (state for Internal Affairs) admitted that they donâ€™t know where all these guns are. Look at this security organisation, many of them owned by UPDF officers; you just go to the armory and get guns.
When the minister says the government does not know where the guns are, is he saying they stole them from the armory?
He is simply saying they do not have an account of the guns and God forbid, if something happened in this city, I do not know what the command would look like. It is simply a lassie-faire in the management of our security.
But this trend was very minimal in the first 10 or so years of the NRM, what happened.
They were minimal because first of all, people had hope and were willing to cooperate but now they have since sat back after seeing all the vices that we came fighting against have tripled. When the government introduced the Kiboko Squad, the President said that he was happy people had now started defending themselves. Admitting that the state had failed, therefore putting security in the hands of the people. To me, I wish it had continued so that everybody now moves with a stick because it had been sanctioned by the president. Yes, there is no law so you move with your stick and the next day with a panga or spear if you feel that you need enhanced security. Then what more do you want to talk of a collapsed state if the president admits that security is now in the hands of the people.
The NRA cum UPDF was a disciplined army in its first 10 or so years but soon the Magaras and the PGB man went on the loose killing people. What happened?
You know as long as you do it in defense of Museveniâ€™s presidency, you are home and dry. You see that is why for example you have not heard of a trial of the officers who burnt people in a train wagon in Mukura.
There are illegal guns not only held by thugs but even ordinary people moving around openly either posturing as security agents or anything else, why?
But do you know that some people now graze their cattle with guns? It is no longer in Karamoja. There is no war in Ankole, why should the Balalo [cattle keepers] graze cattle with guns? How can you tell me that somebody has 400 heads of cattle but he has no land? How did he acquire all these animals, developing them to reach thousands without land? How were they being moved from Gulu, to Teso, and back to Buliisa and in all these movements they are armed. So, the gun situation here is so porous. For example, you have to be careful when you are using these special hire cars, most of them are state operatives.
What does this mean for the state?
I wonder why Museveni keeps on contradicting himself. It seems he does not know that people remember his earlier comments. He is on record to have said whatever number of guns or soldiers you have, if you do not have the support of the people, you cannot sustain security. Now it answers your earlier question, in the first 10 years people had hope, over time they have seen poverty increase, they have lost trust in government. I donâ€™t know if you see that the state is gradually failing. If a school can burn and Police, ISO, ESO, JATT, GISO cannot come up with a convincing report as to how a school or market came to burn, then you know that the state is collapsing.