With ongoing collapse of law, Kampala leadership is running around like a headless chicken
By Charles Kamya Ssentamu
There was a time when life was easy for Uganda’s long-time ruler. Enjoying popular support he could easily blame all his failures on past leaders. Milton Obote and Idi Amin were his favorite fall guys for anything ranging from economic dysfunction to governance failures.
Although they were no angels, it is now fourteen years since Obote breathed his last and sixteen since Idi Amin died in Saudi Arabia. The ruler was out of a bogeymen with which to scare his contemporaries by invoking an ugly past. As the Ugandan state sunk deeper and all manner of sins including the rampant and unexplained murders and disappearances of Ugandans, the ruler was vexed.
Deep in the night of August 28 this year, a young social worker called Maria Nagirinya became another statistic in the mounting body count of victims of abduction and murder over the past five years. She was snatched in full view of a relative who promptly informed the security agencies.
No help was forthcoming.
Maria’s body and that of Ronald Kitayimbwa, her occasional driver, were on August 30 found dumped in a swamp at Nakitutuli, a spot along the Mukono-Kayunga road.
Although this was the latest of dozens of incidents of dumping murder victims at that particular spot, it has never been secured.
A dedicated person working for Community Integrated Development Initiative (CIDI), an NGO based in Muyenga, Maria was the daughter of Francis Lubowa a regime supporter and NRM party candidate in Kampala’s competitive politics. It was perhaps because of this relationship that President Museveni called the victim’s father to express his condolences, and to offer Ushs 10 million.
The other victim’s (Kitayimbwa’s) family which was much more vulnerable and would have appreciated that paltry sum better, was left on its own.
As has now become the pattern. The latest murders were followed by hollow assurances by the president that he had “taken a personal interest in the case and that the killers would be apprehended in no time.” No one believed that even for a moment.
That’s is exactly what he promised after the murders of Joan Kagezi, a senior prosecutor in the office of the DPP, five years ago. The ruler would repeat that each time, when Muhammad Kiggundu, AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi, Assistant Superintendent of Police Mohammed Kirumira, and Arua MP Ibrahim Abiriga lost their lives. The same familiar pronouncements were made after the kidnap and later gruesome murder of Susan Magara. And the list goes on and on. In some instances the president has even come out to say that he knows the killers!
Several suspects were arrested in the Magara case but none has been brought to trial. After a protracted extradition process from South Africa over the same case, Patrick Kasaija alias Pato once in Kampala was charged with offences that were not related to the Magara case in any way!
This was not completely surprising to Ugandans who are now familiar with this rigmarole. It is the same stage routine that Uganda has witnessed throughout the dozens of high-profile murders. Countless Ugandans have been murdered, with no one ever made answerable.
Besides raising the usual question of who is behind the rampant crimes, Maria and Kitayimbwa’s double murder exposed the corruption and incompetence (more likely callous indifference) that pervades the Ugandan system today.
When more than two dozen call girls were murdered over the space of a few weeks around the Entebbe area some time in 2017, Kampala exploited the public’s desperation for a solution to rush through a multi-million dollar procurement of surveillance cameras.
Unsurprisingly when the first batch arrived they were parceled out to high-ranking officials, with some going first to State House, then the Parliamentary Speaker, the Vice President and the like. More than 3000 of the cameras have been planted around Kampala since but they appear impotent to stem the crime wave.
Nagirinya’s abduction at her gate in Lungujja, Busega Community Zone was within view of cameras. Her family reported the crime promptly. But nobody at different police stations appeared interested in alerting the control room so that her vehicle, in which the audacious abductors drove her, could be tracked in time.
Instead the lethargic desk officers would provide separate reasons why they believed the cameras were “offline”.
To the public’s outrage, a review of the footage from the night showed that they had tracked the abductee’s vehicle at two points – one on its way out of Kampala, and a segment of its return journey. These facts have left the leadership exposed on multiple fronts.
First of all the number of cameras procured for the more than US$ 400 million that has been spent on this project do not reflect value for money, and a good portion of the money simply found its way back into the pockets of regime fat cats. Now Kampala is trying to appease the public by arresting the police officers that first received the reports of Maria’s abduction.
Yet knowing their leader so well, Ugandans are not putting much faith into this latest gimmick.
Their main worry is when, where or whom crime will strike next.
That is what this country has become.