We shouldn’t allow Local Terrorism to Drive fear in Us

Ofwono Opondo
June 12, 18 
Late Friday last week, just as we emerged with colleagues from a strategy meeting that had been convened by Frank Tumwebaze, the minister of Information Communication Technology (ICT), and National Guidance, than my telephone rang, informing me that Col. (rtd) Ibrahim Abiriga, MP Arua Municipality, had been shot dead a few metres from his home in Kawanda, Wakiso district.
The cruel hand of death that tragically and brutally took away Abiriga’s life, bares similar hallmarks to those that assassinated senior state prosecutor Joan Kagezi in 2014, AIG Andrew Felix Kaweesi in March 2017, and a chain of Muslim clerics in Mbale, Mayuge, Kampala and Wakiso districts between 2013 and 2017. 
All of them were gunned down without putting any form of resistance while driving to or from their homes. In most of these cases, the victims were just a few distance away to or from their respective homes, still driving, had just been dropped off or had a stopover chatting with acquaintances, when all of a sudden assassins emerge from a ‘dark’ corner shooting sporadically, but methodically, rounds of gun fire that end the lives of their defenceless victims even when they are either armed, with bodyguards, or themselves well trained security officers. It implies that these assassins would have usually done their reconnaissance well enough on their targets’ routine schedule to know their movements, habits and residences.
And while the blame game goes on, especially from the political class, and its pseudo intellectual security ‘experts’ and ‘analysts’ against government, it is imperative that Ugandans don’t succumb to the usual temptations that gives a fertile ground for criminal elements to flourish. It is necessary to understand that these criminals, whether terrorists with political motives, murderers for ritual sacrifice, or organised gangs in the economic underworld, would want to drive extreme anxiety, apprehension, fear, disaffection against the government, and paralysis of normal activities among a broad category of Ugandans so that the public space is left to them to operate with great latitude and freedom, which we must not accept. 
Firstly, the criminals are certainly few, but would now want to deflect attention by killing political figures because they know that security agencies have or are on the verge of bursting their terror cells. Most likely, Abiriga’s assassination could be an effort toward that goal.
It is imperative that government explains to the general public the changing nature of society, and complicated trends in crime involving trans-national boundaries and jurisdictions, unplanned urbanization, technological development, emerging economies and democracies in which liberalism reigns high. While no single life should be lost under these tragic circumstances, it is necessary to point out that indeed Uganda’s security system is indeed robust, and does prevent far more and worse than what the public may imagine.
While they are still visible gaps, especially in foundational security, detection, investigations and prosecution, our security agencies deserve some commendation and not the unqualified condemnation being dished. Many commentators, including those would-be Abiriga’s political adversaries have vouched that although he was very vocal and radical, to the point of sometimes considered an irritant, he was never-the-less, a harmless jovial NRM supporter who only spoke his mind loudly, innocently and frankly to whoever cared to grant him audience. As such, Abiriga didn’t deserve the tragic end that awaited him.
However, while investigations continue to find his cold-blooded and cowardly killers, it may not be far-fetched to explore that perhaps these criminals believed, and still perhaps believe that they sought to turn Abiriga into a sad example in order to create and send fear down the spines of NRM vocal activists.  NRM leaders, and particularly MPs, must stand up to these political shenanigans by speaking out and freely go out about their daily schedules. MPs must really shed off the unnecessary fears and disquiet that some of them are beginning to publicly show.
Abiriga’s assassination, coming just on the heels of President Museveni’s stern warning during the opening of parliament that criminals who had been kidnapping and killing innocent women in Wakiso and Kampala would be defeated, perhaps, they struck back to signal defiance to call a bluff. It was as if they were saying that Museveni’s threat would come to nothing.
And if that was the criminals’ intention, Ugandans should be reminded that is how during the insurgency in northern Uganda, Joseph Kony, Vincent Otti, and Otti Lagony used to behave, striking back with horrendous mass abductions and massacre of innocent villagers. However, eventually, their days came to an end one by one, in turns, and this was in spite them having chorus support from sections of religious leaders and opposition politicians in northern Uganda especially Acholi sub-region.
That they could do whatever they wanted, including abduction or assassination of high profiled targets like MP Abiriga, and a senior security official, Kaweesi, seen or perceived to be well protected. But, like President Museveni said at Abiriga’s burial that he was sad, annoyed, and angry at these incidents, political assassinations may tragic and demoralising, but are cowardly methods of dealing with opponents.