Rampant Serious Crimes Should be a Cause of Concern

By Professor Venansius Baryamureeba

The general public is very worried about the rising crime in Uganda. Unlike in the past, petty crimes like stealing of chicken, goats, cows, farm produce etc. are on the rise among the rural communities. This may be attributed to the growing idle and redundant youth in rural communities as a result of the high unemployment rates. While the causes of crime are complex, some of the key reasons for crime today include: poverty, the need or want for money, feelings of anger, envy or vengeance, the decay of family values, parental neglect, the desire for control, the need to hold and retain political offices and other executive offices, infidelity, low self-esteem as well as alcohol and drug abuse. In some cases, people commit crimes for self-serving reasons. At other times, crimes are committed to do harm to others. Violent crimes, such as murder, assault and rape, may also result from bad subconscious attitudes or pent-up anger. Other violent crimes are planned out for personal gain or vengeance. A person may kill someone over a significant feud or disdain. So what are the main causes of crime in Uganda and what should the government do to curb rising crime rate?

Poverty is a major cause of crime in Uganda. Most Ugandans are driven to great lengths of desperation and frustration by poverty. It does seem that the rich are getting richer and the poor getting poorer every passing day. Poverty contributes to robbery because people find it easier or quicker to steal than to go through the process of getting and keeping a job. Some less educated people feel hopeless about finding work and steal out of a sense of need. The abolition of graduated tax was the genesis of lazy citizens in Uganda. This has been worsened by commercialisation of politics (handouts from politicians) that has turned citizens into beggars. Even communal work has died out. Many villagers don’t work at all. The working culture is dying out hence leading to a poorer population that is very prone to hunger and starvation. Poverty reduction strategies are well known world over and the government of Uganda should aim at reducing poverty among the rural poor. There is need to focus on increasing household income especially in rural areas.

Increase in population is a serious cause of crime. The increase of population triggers off a dynamo effect in society and this leads to the creation of more people with some form of frustration or resentment towards society as such. The government must put in place measures to control population growth and family size. Uncontrolled family sizes have accelerated poverty among the rural people. Without controlling family sizes, Uganda getting into the middle income status can only be a dream at least in the foreseeable future.

Politics is often a cause of crime. It is seen that many political associations all around the world have their own mafias running which they use to manipulate and subjugate people. Political power is often misused to take advantage of weaker groups and people and the dissidence that arises out of such situations often forces the victims to resort to crimes. Politics is more related to crime on a much larger and a much heinous level than anything else. So there is need to preach political tolerance by the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) government if the political and democratic gains of NRM since 1986 are to be sustained. Just like in the past, the indicators are that once President Museveni leaves power there is likely to be some kind of political revenge. Hence the need to build tolerance, trust and cohesion among the main political actors.

Regionalism is a cause of crime and unrest among people. Such people that harbor such regionalist feelings often go to great lengths to commit crimes against other communities. It is often that a victim of such regionalism gets influenced and enters the world of crimes. The government must make an effort to address unequal distribution of political power, wealth and other resources among the regions of Uganda.

Crime especially murder is on the rise due to mainly unfair rulings, unfair investigations of crime, conflicts or disagreements. Victims of unfair or incorrect rulings from court often cause people to enter a life of crime. Similarly, due to a corrupt investigation system, victims of unfair crime investigations also cause people to enter a life of crime. It often happens that a person is a victim of chance and happens to fall into crimes. Besides that, people are also often falsely accused of committing crimes which end up in a court conviction. Serious disagreements or conflicts within power centres usually lead to assassinations of persons on orders of their colleagues, what is commonly known as an inside job. Jails or prisons often make worse criminals out of people because of the conditions that exist there. Corrections anywhere do not involve major rehabilitation for criminals and more often than not they end up being thrown in overpopulated jails full of people who are either victims or perpetrators of crimes more serious than their own. The declassification of people in prisons is also a major cause of crime creation. There is need to promote a just and fair judicial system.

Discrimination based on race is a serious issue all around the world. In Uganda racial crimes are steadily on the rise either due to poor laws or poor enforcement of laws. For example, why should Chinese and Indians be doing casual jobs that can easily be done by Ugandans? Some Ugandans whose employers are from these communities complain of racial exploitation and poor pay. This is creating a lot of resentment and hatred that is leading to crimes. The government needs to enforce the law and ring fence certain businesses and jobs for locals. Already around Kampala unexplained murders of some Indians and Chinese have been reported, which could be attributed to racism.

Internet, TV and radio inspired crimes are on the rise. TV violence has gone up to staggering levels and it does not help when people are influenced and try to emulate such acts of violence. TV violence is a major cause of crime especially among younger people that are unable to differentiate between fiction and reality. Since TV has become such an integral part of people’s lives now days, it is important to draw clear lines between what is real and what is not. Internet violence and crime are on the rise. Many kids today are connected to the internet. On the internet, kids and adults meet all sorts of people that end up luring them into committing crime. Sometimes, radios air content that inspires people to commit crime. There is need to identify and evaluate mitigation measures for Internet, TV and radio crimes.

There are a lot of things that go on in families that often cause people to get into a life of crime. Here again, there are a lot of different conditions that lead a person into crime. Lack of faith or strong religious beliefs is driving people into crime. Abuse during formative years from family members and other such acts also instigate a person into a life of crime. People who are neglected by their families or communities and do not get the love and attention that they desire also get into criminal activities. Family violence and other issues are also related to crime in many ways. Children exposed to violence in their homes may grow up with subconscious thoughts that compel them to impulsive reactions when angry. In essence, some crimes carry forward through generations in families. There is need to revise the community spirit of raising up children where children used to belong to the community and it was the responsibility of the community to raise up a child.

Depression and other social and mental disorders are causing crime. People with depression and grave mental disorders should be treated before their tendencies and ailments get out of hand. A person under depression or some other serious mental disorder can also easily cause harm to themselves. In Uganda going for mental health checkup is a taboo. Thus, there is need to create awareness about depression and mental health issues.

Drugs are a bane, no matter how we look at them. Persons addicted to drugs are unable to support their addiction and more often than not they end up in a life of crime to fuel their habits. It is a known fact that drug addicts end up committing crimes to raise money for their habits. The government needs to regulate the use of drugs especially among the youth in urban areas.

Infidelity among couples and traumatic separations and divorces are increasingly becoming sources of crime. There is need to intensify counseling services in all vulnerable communities and families.

So generally speaking, individualists tend to focus on individual weakness or lack of 'values' as the reason why people commit crimes. Individualists feel that society needs clearer rules and strong punishments to minimise criminal behaviour. On the other hand, many people feel that in order to tackle crime, the social conditions which create the conditions for crime need to be addressed. So, better housing, better employment opportunities and a more equal society will make crime less of an attraction. If people are in work and are content with life, they will be less motivated to break the law. The author was a candidate in the 2016 Presidential Election.