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Sabiiti Muzeyi’s security plan that never was

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Deputy Police Chief Brigadier Sabiiti Muzeyi.

By Charles Kamya Ssentamu

When President Museveni on 15 October gave Deputy Police Chief Brigadier Sabiiti Muzeyi a two-day ultimatum to furnish him with a plan to rid Uganda of a violent crime wave that has claimed hundreds of lives, Ugandans were for a fleeting moment flattered. They thought their leader was finally getting to grips with one of the issues causing the most anxiety to their days.

People would subsequently be left high and dry however when Muzeyi unveiled his “plan”. The young soldier turned policeman did indeed beat the two-day deadline.

But his plan was a total anticlimax given that it really contained nothing new. Many commentators observed that Muzeyi was stating the obvious. Hotlines. “Increasing visibility”. “Ramping up investigations”. “Cracking down on criminal gangs whose locations and leaders police has for long known.” And also, “Rapid Response Unit”.

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All that is the stuff of regular policing. What was new? Uganda Police has had these, and in excess, for a number of years. So what was Museveni up to?

What is emerging is that as usual Museveni was callously exploiting the plight of the citizens to further his selfish political agenda. This was evident at a subsequent meeting to discuss the plan in Kigo, where soldiers led by Lt. Gen. Peter Elwelu, who appeared to be calling the shots, outnumbered career policemen.

With his popularity diminished, and a determined opposition to his progressive kleptomania growing, Museveni is determined to step up his repression. But he cannot rely on the regular police whose conduct has been hemmed in by new rules, which make police officers personally liable for human rights violations.

In other words the ruler can no longer fully rely on the police to keep perpetrating mindless violence on his behalf.

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Equally, after seeing the turn in fortunes of former IGP Kale Kayihura, Museveni knows that he cannot fully count on the force to carry out his illegal orders in the critical run-up to 2021, and the increasingly uncertain political terrain.

The ultimatum to Muzeyi, and the latter’s scanty response which was mostly a rehash of Museveni’s own and not-so-new 12-point security plan, observers believe Museveni is simply setting the stage for the final purge of a civilian command from police. His order to Muzeyi conveniently came when the latter’s principal – the substantive IGP Okoth Martin Ochola – was out of the country.

The ultimatum was most likely intended to create something that projects Sabiiti Muzeyi as the man who finally achieves the impossible.

In the wider scheme of things however, it does not matter whether Muzeeyi fails to crack down on violent crime or not. A failure would still place the force where Museveni wants it to be – subordinate to the military in civil policing.

In virtually all standoffs between the protesters and security, the military has taken pole position. When members of the public protested the arrest, torture and detention of new opposition gadfly Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine in August 2018, it was the military that led the assault. It clobbered people, including Reuters photojournalist Robert Akena who is now wheelchair bound.

Earlier this month when police denied Bobi Wine to stage an Independence Day concert at his private beach grounds, it was the military that was deployed to block access to the venue. The presence of Gen. Elwelu, a man who is not known for self-restraint, was particularly telling.

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Elwelu earned his Lt. General’s pips and the command of the land forces after he led the assault on the Rwenzururu King’s palace in November 2017, during which more than a hundred unarmed royal guards were reported killed.

Now the subject of US sanctions, and with limited options, Elwelu will do anything to please and preserve Museveni. But he can only take pole position after the police has failed in its duties; and that is why it must (be made) to fail, informed observers comments.

When he chooses to, Museveni can actually end crime when it suits him. He has all the information about the criminal gangs operating in the country and in some cases, controls them.

But creating insecurity, and then temporarily calling the dogs home works very well for him! It projects him as the grandmaster, and the only man capable of cracking Uganda’s seemingly complex security puzzles.

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