By John Kakooza
The kidnapping of American tourist Kimberly Sue Endicott and her Ugandan driver during a game drive in Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Game Park earlier this week has to be understood in the wider context of the crisis-level breakdown of law and order under General Yoweri Museveni.
Endicott and her driver were abducted at gunpoint this Tuesday. According to reports, their kidnappers are demanding US$ 500,000, for the release of the American woman.
Kidnappings are not news to Ugandans. The country in the past couple of years has endured a spate of kidnappings for ransom that is unequalled in the entire Great Lakes Region. In 2018 in one period of only four months, Uganda Police said 42 cases of kidnap had been reported.
According to observers, the fact that Kimberly Sue Endicott’s abduction is in the news is because she is American. In Uganda where law and order are on their deathbed, kidnappings of people is a common occurrence that can no longer be called news.
The crime became so endemic that some youths last year held a protest in Kampala, carrying coffins to symbolize kidnapped and murdered people. The protestors dumped the coffins in front of the country’s Parliament building, outraged that the lawmakers weren’t doing enough to hold the government accountable for failing to stem the crime wave.
The institutions of the entire government of Museveni – from the Presidency itself, on to the ruling party, through the military, police and other security institutions – have a single, unifying characteristic: criminal misuse, or gross abuse of power.
“The pervasive crisis of Uganda is that government itself is run like a gangster cartel by people that behave no better than the Mafia, and others just like village thugs!” exclaimed a Kampala-based analyst that preferred not to be named for fear that the state-sanctioned goons may descend on him.
“Begin right from the top; with the Museveni family that has been named in so many criminal activities itself, what example do they inspire?”
The analyst goes on to name a few of the numerous activities of a law-breaking nature that Museveni, his brother Salem Saleh, and (Museveni’s) wife have been involved in.
Saleh’s thieving nature first became widely public when he orchestrated a huge scam in 1998 by fraudulently purchasing about 80 percent of the defunct UCB, only to milk the bank dry by taking out huge sums of money that he never repaid. UCB did not survive.
Next to take it on the chin was the Ugandan taxpayer, with the infamous junk choppers incident that involved buying obsolete military helicopters from an east European country. Undisclosed millions of dollars were taken from the treasury to pay for the junk machines, for which Saleh reportedly received a kickback of US$ 800,000.
In everything Saleh does, according to informed analysis, he is acting on behalf of his brother Museveni. In effect, the president is a “silent, silent partner” offering his sibling all the protection needed in each and every one of his scams, embezzlement schemes, land-grabbing ventures and other thieving undertakings.
The first family’s greed knows no bounds. Their thieving in the DR Congo by now has become legendary. In the late 90s it got to the extent the United Nations Security Council specifically named Salim Saleh in the illegal exploitation and plunder of the Congo’s natural resources.
“A fish rots from the head,” commented a journalist, adding, “the Ugandan leadership decayed long ago, from the head to the chest, midriff, limbs, up to the feet!”
Accordingly, all sorts of criminal interests will override a country run in such a manner, say commentators. The regime has no moral authority to tell people to be law-abiding citizens. It has no will to punish abusers of office when it is the biggest abuser itself.
What is happening in Uganda is that every person in some position of power will use it to loot the institution they head, or wherever they work: from every state enterprise, down to schools, hospitals and the like.
There is just nothing like working for the public interest in Uganda anymore!, exclaimed MP Semujju Ibrahim Nganda on a radio talk show one time.
Uganda has become a country of huge scams whereby the equivalent of close to US$ 90 million can be authorized by officials of the central bank (BoU) to bail out a bank like Crane Bank only for the money to disappear; the bank ends up collapsing anyway, and no one will be held accountable.
“BoU’s Shs 270b injected in Crane Bank can’t be traced”, said a headline in the Monitor newspaper of 13 February, this year.
“When it becomes obvious to everyone that the people running their country are thieves, crooks and thugs, others too become thieves, crooks and thugs,” commented an old Ugandan that has seen most of the country’s regimes. The country then becomes uncontrollable, he added.
Almost everyone becomes a crook – heads of security agencies – army, police and others – rent out guns to petty thugs to “to carry out robbery operations”.
It is not inconceivable that Ugandan security forces themselves are the very people renting out, or giving, guns to violent robbers. Or to kidnappers such as the ones that kidnapped the American tourist and her driver, commented a long-time observer of politics in Uganda.
The lawlessness of the Museveni regime has long been manifest right from the first days when they eliminated Andrew Kayiira, a man that had fought Obote equally as much as Museveni, but whom they ensured would not become “too big a rival in the future”.
A lawless regime is one that resorts to extra-judicial murder to eliminate “inconvenient individuals”, observers everywhere have pointed out.
With Museveni, it has been the same – from the days of Kayiira, on with the Mayombos, on with assassinations of numerous Muslim Sheiks (said to be sympathisers of ADF anti-Museveni rebels) on with the elimination of the likes of Kaweesi, Abiriga, Kirumira, to name but a few.
No one is ever brought to trial to answer for the murders of these Ugandans: Not a single suspect in a state that has Police, CID, CMI, ESO, ISO and all kinds of other fully armed, fully equipped, security agencies. It is all very suspicious.
But the Museveni regime has gotten a very convenient scapegoat to blame everything on: a “neighboring country”. When someone is assassinated in Uganda, before the body is even cold, Museveni is on TV claiming “a neighboring country” has killed that person. How can he possibly know something like that before a single investigation has begun?
Those that know Museveni know he can commit a crime and blame it on others as easily as other people breath. He also is perfectly capable of capitalizing on a crime whose author he may not immediately know, to blame that crime on those he’s decided to scapegoat for everything, come what may.
That can already be seen with the kidnap of the American tourist.
Museveni’s propaganda mouthpieces already are insinuating “a neighboring country” is behind the crime, even when every intelligent person knows kidnapping has become one of the endemic crimes in our Uganda, which Museveni’s turned into a lawless state.