13 June 2018

Uganda: Murders - Deliver On Those Bold Speeches

Photo: The Observer
Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga’s bullet-riddled car.

Another assassination week has again shocked the country.

The Friday, 6:30pm, public murder of Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga, the third in recent years, sadly illustrates that violent crime is on a steep climb and outrunning the response from Ugandan security officials.

The killings and kidnappings continue to worry people and the failure of authorities to provide reassuring answers is causing panic.

It's painful to know that Abiriga's journey has come to a very violent end. The shock is numbing, but so were the tragic deaths of State Prosecutor Joan Kagezi, Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi, Maj Muhammad Kiggundu and a host of sheikhs.

In the aftermath of these gruesome deaths, government responses usually have a familiar ring to them. First, during the eulogies, strong vows to catch the killers are made and a string of crime-busting measures announced.

After Kaweesi perished, President Museveni announced government would install CCTV cameras in towns and highways to keep a sharp eye on crime. The only addition this time round was the call for more manpower or reservists, boda boda monitors and a ban on hoods.

And again, the rebel outfit ADF took some blame. Usually such speeches are followed by publicised arrests of suspects but prosecutions drag on endlessly.

With time, Abiriga's murder will also quietly slip into oblivion until another killing occurs and the cycle of knee-jerk reactions begins allover.

Improving the technical crime surveillance capacity in towns is laudable but that anti-crime infrastructure may be more useful after the fact - commission of a crime.

But to stop the continued criminals' march of devastation, strong proactive intelligence gathering is key. First we need to know why the killings are happening. We must connect the dots right from the killing of sheikhs, the ominous letter drops, the panga gangs in Masaka to the rapes in Wakiso and the recent kidnappings.

We need to establish whether there are patterns, which can point us to the killers. Once we know why, then we can attempt to answer the who are the killers and how we can stop them.

An array of cameras and an army of foot patrols may not be sufficient to stop determined, organized killers.

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