OpED

OPINION: Dear President Museveni; threats don’t fight terrorism, come out clear

David Mafabi, a veteran journalist (PHOTO/File)

BY DAVID MAFABI

KAMPALA — President Yoweri Museveni last week condemned the suicide bombings in the capital Kampala, while assuring residents of continued efforts to fight terrorism and promote security.

He said terrorists have exposed themselves at a time when Uganda’s security infrastructure has improved and is more prepared to fight terrorism.

“The terrorists invited us and we are coming for them,” he said

At a certain time a tough talking President Museveni while addressing the nation said,

“And terrorists, I am warning you, don’t run. If we come, surrender! If you try to run, you are dead. You have been looking for trouble but now you are going to get it. You have been killing our people, but now you are going to die.”

All these have been threats that have not yielded anything and the unrest across the country concerning politics reveals how Uganda is facing a serious internal threat of rising insecurity.

The recent waves of terrorist attacks have further complicated the state’s internal security problems, portraying evidence that the government and security system are either ineffective at utilising the security resources and capabilities, or have no genuine political will to effectively respond to increasing threats.

And our dear president Museveni still responds, “These are pigs! , the public should not fear, we shall defeat this criminality like we have defeated all the other criminality committed by the pigs who don’t respect life”

Many times the government security system also responds by declaring that ‘it is ADF’ and reacts by arresting Muslims.

The state of affairs in Uganda seems to suggest that Uganda is simply playing political games with the rising threat of insecurity and terrorism.

And ultimately, it is Uganda as a country and citizens in general who pay the price as the time bombs of insecurity and the threat of terrorism tick away towards explosion.

Unfortunately since the 2010 bomb blasts by the al-Shabaab terrorist group that left 74 people dead and several injured at Kyadondo rugby grounds, it has become popular in Uganda for the government and the opposition to publicly politicise internal insecurity problems – including the threat of terrorism.

This points to the fact that there is no genuine political will to respond to the increasing insecurity threats, and that insecurity has become a tool for political manipulation by the government, state security agencies and opposition groups.

And it has become a pattern of well-orchestrated politicking, inertia and political blame shifting motivated by narrow interests and focused on gaining political mileage.

And after bomb blasts our dear government responds by depicting the opposition as power-hungry hate-mongers bent on overthrowing the government, inciting violence and dividing the country along political lines.

The heightened political tension and blame shifting seems to have created an opportunity for long-standing political grievances in Uganda to blend with terrorism, as factors behind the attacks.

Although the opposition remains convinced that the attacks are acts of terrorism and blame them on government’s ineptitude, the government, however, rubbishes al-Shabaab’s claim of responsibility and instead accuses the opposition of fomenting ethno-political discord and violence in the country.

This type of reasoning has even assumed an ethnic dimension, which, viewed in the context of Uganda’s history of negative ethno-political polarisation and violence, adds potency to the ticking time bombs.

Although seemingly, the Uganda security agencies had information/warning by the UK government about impending attacks by terrorist bomb attacks on the country early enough, they failed to act in time to prevent or neutralise the situation.

This uncoordinated and ineffective response to this attack enabled the terrorists to throw bombs to unsuspecting Ugandans this month and the government just condemned the attack and promised stern action against the perpetrators- we are yet to see this.

“As Ugandans, we simply need genuine political will to respond to increasing insecurity threats, not merely threats”.

Unfortunately, the ‘Mayumbi Kumi’ initiative, touted as a citizens’ neighbourhood watch suggested minister of state for defence while addressing people of Tororo, is suspected to be a government ploy to exert political control over citizens.

Across the country, the operations by security after bombs have been thrown have largely been perceived as a discriminatory operation characterised by an undertone of religious profiling, targeting Muslims; and the security surveillance project has also remained entangled in deep political debate.

All the initiatives by security therefore appear to be underpinned by an overriding political theme: that of consolidating the national psyche and they also seem largely motivated by political expediency rather than well-thought-out policy and strategy that can sustain durable solutions.

In only the month of November, Uganda has emerged as a focus of terrorism and although the governments has a responsibility to combat terrorism in a lawful manner, it has fallen down on its role and only responds by also making an alarm and threats that have not helped at all.

Whereas terrorism in Uganda has led to a variety of human rights violations, the government has just cited the need to fight terrorism as a pretext to crack down on political opposition, human rights defenders, and lawful expressions of dissent.

The counterterrorism actions that followed the bombing were characterized by human rights violations, including allegations of arbitrary detention, unlawful renditions, physical abuse, and denial of due process rights.

WE ought to thoroughly investigate the alleged abuses, and must pursue counterterrorism activities that do not entail human rights violations.

What Uganda requires is national resolve to depoliticise security issues and the threat of insecurity, there must be a well-structured, multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional approach towards insecurity and terrorism.

This must be devoid of the narrow, partisan political and religious targets, and should have a comprehensive policy and strategy to ensure appropriate, proactive and decisive counter-crime and counter-terrorism action.

The Ugandan political leadership and the citizens must embrace this approach, regardless of their political and religious affiliation.

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