Uganda: Museveni's Wavering Fight Against Assassins

Kampala, Uganda — President Museveni became meme fodder on social media once again in his latest reference of deadly assassins as "pigs". Denouncing trained assassins after a high profile killing is the default position of the Commander in Chief.

Those who thought he would use a different response mechanism were left disappointed when Museveni descended in his usual tirade after Gen. Katumba Wamala, Works and Transport Minister, survived a deadly assassination attempt while driving on a narrow road in Kisaasi. His driver and daughter were not as lucky. They died on the spot.

Government spokespeople like Ofwono Opondo say the pig reference is a metaphor that has been lost in translation. They also refer to the assassinations as "isolated incidents".

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But critics like Busiro East MP, Medard Sseggona, of the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) say the pigs are smarter than those that are supposed to cull them.

"The pigs are armed and dangerous and have continued to kill many people," says Sseggona.

Opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) Spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi, who is also the Nakawa West MP, commented on the issue.

"Referring to them as pigs may just give Museveni some satisfaction. But it does not take way the reality of Ugandans being killed."

Why do the pigs keep at it? Terrorising the country, leaving the populace at their mercy and security forces clueless?

Museveni's latest act was unveiling a young lady Resty Nakyambadde who he described as a "fighter". Nakyambadde whom Museveni introduced after a covid19 address narrated her encounter with a notorious criminal known as Kiddawalime in Kalungu district. The President was reacting to the alarm caused by the shooting of Katumba, a UPDF General and former Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) on the morning of June 01 in Kisaasi.

Nakyambadde's narration of how she repulsed Kiddawalime fed into the debate of the President's response to criminal killings that have gone on in the country.

On the same day Museveni said if the traffic police officer who caught a glimpse of Katumba's assailants was armed; the officer would have stopped the fleeing assailants. A few days later, some traffic officers were seen on duty with AK 47 rifles slung over their shoulders.

From gun finger printing to banning hooded riders on motorbikes and lambasting police for outmoded methods of countering urban crime, Museveni has careened from one tactic to another as a surge in violent urban crime has gripped Kampala and the country at large.

The police which has been the most effective tool of suppressing Museveni's opponents have instead turned into his punching bag and scapegoat for security failures.

While addressing the 25th Police Council at police headquarters in Naguru in November 2019, the president could barely hide his contempt for the men and women entrusted with keeping law and order in the country.

He said the police should adopt a colonial era model for managing crime "because the colonialists didn't have enough resources, their plan was through the chiefs - Muluka and sub-county chiefs."

Museveni added "They (chiefs) would call the tenda (police patrol). I closely monitored it between 1951 and 1958. I could see these people manage huge areas using a skeleton number of police officers," in response to Inspector General of Police Okoth Ochola who requested the President for more personnel.

But some have blamed the current quagmire on the political standoff between the government and opposition which denied police ability to horn intelligence and crime fighting. They argue that the Police internalised the President's orders as not allowing opposition to sow chaos even when they set out to demonstrate peacefully.

Crime preventers

In 2014 Museveni started his journey on evolving tactics on fighting the rising levels of crime in the country as his rule became longer and longer. First with crime preventers who were recruited from universities and from hordes of unemployed youth groups. Championed by then Inspector General of Police IGP Gen. Kale Kayihura, the crime preventers would work as informants to police officers and listening post in rural areas as Kayihura touted the model of community policing.

However it was not long before the crime preventers were involved in Museveni's election campaigns and sucked into money schemes. Kayihura had resorted to scheming chunks off money from the police budget to cater to crime preventers. The crime preventers scheme collapsed after the 2016 elections and they had become more renowned for creating pockets of crime than actual crime fighting.

Some of Museveni's critics like Gen. Mugisha Muntu, a former army commander and presidential candidate in the 2021 polls, says the varying tactics and response mechanisms are a result of investing heavily in regime survival tactics. "He puts more money in riot control than any other aspect of policing. It is not about security of the people".

Muntu says it is largely a question of money in the law and order sector. "If you do not put enough money in CID, prosecutions and judiciary, that is what happens."

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The leader of the new party, Alliance for National Transformation (ANT), says police having a large budget does not cut it. "Not every police officer can carry out investigations. How many CID officers are there? How well trained are they?"

Muntu, one of the longest serving army commanders says the circuit of CID, prosecutions and the courts is key if there can be a difference. "Criminals fear to be detected, arrested, tried and sentenced. If they notice a loophole, boom."

He also pokes holes into the current strategy of CCTV surveillance. "The cameras capture data but it needs someone to interpret it and use it as evidence. You cannot talk about the technical part without talking about the human factor."

According to police, the assailants had trailed Wamala from his home in Najjera, 4km away. To Museveni however, these assailants with their skills and precision are pigs. Museveni has been slammed for the constant reference to pigs as simplistic.

During the election of Speaker on May 24, Museveni bragged how he resorted to guerilla tactics to defeat Kadaga and create harmony in the NRM party after a divisive campaign season.

Some however have wondered why the President who refers to himself as a Ssabalwanyi (chief fighter) does not apply guerilla tactics when they are needed most: when dealing with notorious criminals who have fashioned motorcycles as one of their favoured tactics.

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