By James Lubwama
On October 28, 2018 President Museveni issued a statement that was titled as follows “guidelines on managing rioters, terrorists, criminals and looters and methods of arresting and handling suspects.” Interestingly, among these guidelines are “shoot to kill” orders from the Head of State himself. It’s incomprehensible why a president would issue such directives to his security officers in a manner that is clearly unprovoked. Perhaps the birth of the people power movement is causing our president sleepless nights more to a deeper extent than we can imagine to provoke this obvious callousness.
In this directive, Museveni separates the people between locals and foreigners with each to be dealt with differently by his security forces (ISO, CMI, UPF). Speaking about the foreigners, Museveni directs, “These must never be beaten, pushed or be barked at for any reason,” and continues directing that his officers should engage them by “talking politely to them.”
For the “others,” Taliban justice awaits them. Among these “others” are his political opponents whom he considers “traitors” Remarkably, Museveni lumps these traitors with “rioters, criminals, looters, terrorists” for whom “there is no compromise” in the way they are handled by the security forces.
The security forces should, Museveni writes, use water cannons to control them. However, should this fail to work, “then, the police can use live bullets by first firing in the air; but, if the persist, the police will fire directly,” reads the instructions.
Museveni then goes on to provide legal cover for these extra-legal instructions saying that “under certain conditions” Ugandans “can be shot legally and can also be beaten legally and legitimately,” the chilling directive reads. “You will be shot!”
Taliban justice must be taken up because, “if the police do not disable you or kill you, they may never get another chance to catch you so that you answer for your crimes,” Museveni continues in utter disregard for due process.
It’s rather remarkable that a head of state can issue such a threat to the public. The Opposition Chief Whip in parliament, Hon. Ibrahim Semujju Nganda was in total shock after hearing the president’s directives to his security forces to “box or shoot rowdy crowds,” he said. “There is no hope his statement is giving. The statement is issued by someone who has suffered immense pressure because of what has been happening. I don’t know why he issued a statement.”
So, Semuju thinks the president is under “immense pressure.” But what kind of pressure can elicit this kind of callousness against your own people. Moreover, his call to separate the treatment of foreigners and locals threatens to sow resentment against the former, with Ugandans seeing them as part of the Museveni problem for which they are already in dire need of a solution.
Moreover, the cause use of terms such as “enemies of the people” or “traitors” to refer to the political opposition whose existence is guaranteed by the Constitution and to invite lethal force in handling their political activities including authorising the security forces to “fire directly” signals that our county has formally taken a turn for the worst.
Look no farther than the president’s justification for the brutal treatment of Yusuf Kawooya. According to the president, Kawooya invited the brutality into himself by “biting” the security officers. Clearly, audio recording on this abuse shows there was no biting. Secondly, even if Kawooya had indeed bitten the security officers, was the response proportional force?
If the security forces have been abusing people with impunity, Museveni’s new directives should provide them with new found confidence to double down on the abuse. They have the assurance they need to know that beyond torturing Museveni’s political enemies, now they can actually solve the problem once and for all. After all, the instructions as well as the warnings are clear, “They will kill you!”
As our country prepares to bleed even further, those who will be shot cannot say they were not warned!
This article was originally published by “The watchman” blog