By Maniraguha Ferdinand
On 16th November, Uganda’s capital Kampala experienced a horrible day when twin terrorist attacks were launched consecutively in strategic areas, leaving five dead including two assailants.
It’s one of few attacks the eastern African country has seen in a decade after the deadly attack on football fans who were watching World cup matches in the capital. The attack claimed more than 50 innocent lives.
The recent attack came after a month, the same capital hit by another one which killed one.
President Yoweri Museveni who is in his 35th year on power blamed the attacks on Allied Democratic Front (ADF), the local rebel group which claimed its allegiance to Islamic State in 2019.
The 30 year old group operates in neighboring Congo but has been launching multiple attacks since 1990s. It is mostly composed by Muslims and any Christian who joins is forced to convert.
After the attacks last month, President Museveni tweeted, assuring the nation that security is tight, while calling attackers ‘pigs’. He vowed to use his security forces to combat such ‘pigs’ until they are totally defeated ‘as we have done it before’.
“They have exposed themselves when we are more ready for urban terrorism. They will perish. Rural terrorism was defeated in 2007 in the Semliki National Park. I am referring to the dead terrorists as manipulated victims of confusion”, Museveni tweeted.
To make things worse, Ugandan security forces seem not to trust muslins inside. One muslim clerc was among of those who were gunned down after recent attack, being accused of ‘not cooperating’ when his home was being raided.
President Museveni also accused some muslin clerks of manipulating young people, making them believe that once they blow up themselves, they will go to heaven.
“The real pigs are people like Nsubuga, the so-called Sheikh that confused young people at Lweza. If blowing oneself up will send one to Jaanaa, let him blow himself up as an example instead of manipulating young children”, he added.
By the end of November, Museveni agreed with Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi so that Uganda People Defence Forces (UPDF) can enter Congo’s soil to destroy ADF sanctuaries.
Some politicians don’t find Museveni’s tactics useful. The man who once said that ‘African problems are leaders who overstay in power’, is likely to lead Uganda for life after removing a constitution article that barred those above 75 years old to be candidates.
Uganda’s last presidential elections in early 2021 was marred by government forces violence towards opposition members most of whom are youth. About 77 % of Ugandans are below 25 years, meaning they know no other president during their lifetime.
Robert Kyagulanyi known as Bobi Wine, the most opposition figure who contested with Museveni in last presidential elections, doesn’t accept government responses towards attacks.
“The continuing extra-judicial killings of Ugandans, especially Muslims under the pretext that they are terror suspects must be condemned […]Every time they murder someone, security agencies will claim the person was violent towards them. But as we know, so many Ugandans (including me) have been framed with bogus, untrue claims by the regime. There must be due process of law”, he said.
For Kiiza Besigye, another long time opposition leader in Uganda, blamed Museveni and his regime for causing the insecurity in country. He said people join rebels because they are desperate due to ‘political, social, cultural and economic injustices’.
“The anger and hopelessness from the injustices lead to degradation of confidence in one’s own worth or abilities; self-esteem; the sense of having nothing to lose can foment suicidal tendencies. Many young people have been killings themselves; including, by self immolation. These are human bombs waiting for a detonator”, he wrote on Facebook one day after the attacks on November.
Although Museveni boasted of technology such as cameras and smart checkpoints that have been set up around Kampala, as the useful tool to control security including terrorists, Besigye doesn’t buy it.
“No amount of cameras and other technological gadgets can stop them’ referring to desperate, poor and hopeless people in his country.
For Besigye, “We shall not get out of this crisis by anything short of a fundamental reset of the State”.
The Ugandan forces in DRC have started to launch successful attacks on ADF hideouts but it seems to be not the real solution, when most attacks launchers in Kampala were local population who work with ADF or Islamic State.