UNEXPLAINED MURDERS IN UGANDA: WHAT ARE THE LESSONS LEARNED

By Professor Venansius Baryamureeba

Andrew Felix KaweesiIn the recent past, we have witnessed many unexplained murders. In this article I will only mention two, i.e. the murder of Sheik Maj. Mohammed Kiggundu and AIGP Andrew Felix Kawesi. The killers knew that the victims were well trained army/police officers who were also armed but this did not deter the killers. They still attacked and killed them anyway. This brings three issues to the fore; that the killers are highly trained in military combat, they have inside and intelligence information about their victims and that they are in possession of powerful rifles, pistols or guns.

Crime in Uganda is indeed on the rise. This can be explained by insecurity in neighbouring countries like South Sudan and DRC Congo where very sophisticated guns, rifles and pistols like the Tracking Point Rifle, Accuracy International AS50 Sniper Rifle, Heckler, Koch HK416 A5 Assault Rifle, Heckler and Koch MG4, and Uzi Sub-Machine Gun are available on the black market for very little money. So the criminal gangs or assassins can easily acquire them. At the same time Uganda has very porous boarders with South Sudan and DRC Congo and as a result these illegal guns can easily find their way into Uganda unnoticed. Therefore, as much some media houses reported that the gun that was used in killing AIGP Kawesi, the M4 is only owned by Special Forces Command, Chieftaincy Military Intelligence (CMI) and the Counter Terrorism Unit, there is also a high possibility that it came from outside these bodies.

Furthermore, some of the assassins may be crossing into Uganda as refugees and residing in our camps. This is exacerbated by the many Ugandan army veterans who are currently idle in villages across Uganda without any gainful employment. This may lead some of these army veterans to undertake any available income generating mission including assassination missions.

After witnessing the gruesome murders of several Ugandans in the recent past, many Ugandans feel very insecure in their own country. At this rate, there may be need to make it easy through legislation for Ugandans to acquire (powerful) guns, pistols and rifles for self-defense as not every Ugandan qualifies to have armed bodyguard(s). Uganda can borrow a leaf from the United States. Gun legislation in the United States is augmented by judicial interpretations of the U.S. Constitution. In 1791, the United States adopted the Second Amendment, and in 1868 adopted the Fourteenth Amendment. The effect of those two amendments on gun politics was the subject of landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions in 2008 and 2010, that upheld the right of individuals to possess guns for self-defense. Since the 1990s, debates regarding firearm availability and gun violence in the U.S. have been characterized by concerns about the right to bear arms, such as found in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the responsibility of the government to serve the needs of its citizens and to prevent crime and deaths. Gun control supporters say that broad or unrestricted gun rights inhibit the government from fulfilling that responsibility. Gun rights supporters promote firearms for self-defense, and security against tyranny. Gun control advocates state that keeping guns out of the hands of criminals would result in safer communities, while gun rights advocates state that firearm ownership by law-abiding citizens reduces crime.

In Uganda, guns are in the hands of many people including thieves and assassins and it is very important that Ugandans are protected from these bad elements in society. What we need now is to send a strong message to those involved in assassinations of prominent Ugandans that their guards or themselves now have more powerful rifles, guns and pistols and would be ready to defend themselves when attacked. Citizens with no criminal record should be allowed to easily acquire powerful guns, rifles and pistols for self protection/ defense just like in the United States by the Parliament of Uganda enacting the relevant legislation. Even guards who are guarding VVIPS should be provided with powerful rifles, guns and pistols to ably guard the VVIPS. We must know that the assassins are no longer using simple pistols or guns anymore. So it is important that we match their artillery power otherwise more death are likely basing on what has already happened.

Also for the officers in the category of Assistant Inspector of Police or equivalent that don’t qualify for a lead car or escort car, some innovation needs to be undertaken around their security. For example, even with one vehicle like a Land Cruiser Prado, it is still possible to put two guards in the back seat since it’s a seven seater to guard a boss in the middle seat. Alternatively, double cabin pickups could serve the officers better as the extra guards can sit at the behind of the double cabin pickup and the bodyguard in front. This should be complimented by providing powerful rifles, guns or pistols to the guards.

Installation of surveillance cameras in major towns and on highways cannot help in curbing murders but it will help in curbing other crimes like overdriving and stealing of car mirrors. The fact is that the assassins or murderers will attack their victims from places that won’t have surveillance cameras.

There is also need for a law on mainstreaming crime preventers into the security forces otherwise some of them will continue to abet crime due to idleness and lack of regular income.

The writer is former candidate in the 2016 Uganda Presidential Election.