Uganda President Yoweri Museveni on Friday criticised security agencies for laxity, blaming them for the prevailing insecurity and recent assassination attempt of outgoing minister for Works and Transport and former army commander Gen Katumba Wamala.
Gen Katumba’s car was ambushed Monday morning by gunmen on motorcycles spraying it with bullets, killing his daughter Brenda Nantongo and driver Haruna Kayondo and left the general injured.
While delivering this year’s State of the Nation address last Friday, President Museveni said the suspects would not have escaped if police were alert and using the CCTV camera infrastructure installed around Kampala.
“The recent shooting of Gen Katumba Wamala by the usual actors I called pigs the other day showed the poor organisation of the police,” said an angry Museveni.
“The cameras that I put in place did their work; so why didn’t the camera Centre alert all the patrol cars and even the UAVs.”
On Thursday, four police officers who were manning the CCTV security cameras command centre at Kira Road Police Station were arrested for alleged negligence.
Spate of killings
The attack on the general was just one of more than 20 that have happened in the past seven years and have claimed the lives of an MP, a top government prosecutor, two senior police officers, and several Muslim clerics. None of these murders have been solved to date.
Following the killings, Museveni ordered a raft of measures, including installation of security cameras around Kampala and major towns, and registration of all guns issued to security agencies.
Speaking at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds, President Museveni said authorities had clues as to who the gunmen were, but then, he always says this after every such crime.
“This is not like the other deaths,” he told MPs.
“Gen Katumba’s case is different because, now, we have several measures in place to identify these criminals like the CCTV cameras.”
He noted that rampant corruption within the police force is part of the reason the institution has rogue officers not doing their job right. Security experts point out, however, that the poor remuneration of police officers is reason enough for corruption to thrive.
The year ahead
As he starts the first year of his new term in office, Museveni said that top on agenda will be disposing of corrupt officials from government because “a corrupt person is not a political asset.”
The vice, he said, is rooted within ministries including the Finance docket, the Auditor-General’s office and other state-owned corporations like the recently revamped Uganda Airlines.
“Corruption has become a real enemy and starts from the Ministry of Finance. I have the story and you will see. That is how I moved in on the people of Uganda Airlines who thought they were too smart. They are yet to see the true behaviour of “omuyekera” (rebel),” Museveni said.
Last month, the then Works minister Gen Katumba Wamala suspended top managers at the airline over alleged corruption and mismanagement of funds.
Nonetheless, Uganda loses nearly Ush730 billion to corruption annually even with government agencies like the Ombudsman, the Judiciary, Financial Intelligence Authority and others, put in place to fight the vice.
Recently, Museveni instituted his own anti-corruption unit within the State House, which he directly supervises but it has been bogged down by cases countrywide.
Ms Cissy Kagaba, Executive Director of the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda, said the president has no political will to fundamentally fight corruption like he says in his speeches.
First, Kagaba said, Museveni should act on the recommendations of the Auditor General’s report on the corruption in Uganda Airlines.
“There is nothing new he said about corruption. We have heard all before. I expected him to tell us exactly how he intends to fight the corruption instead of glossing over the issue. It has become normal for him to talk exactly like that,” Kagaba said.
With an economy badly beaten by the coronavirus, Museveni said his government will for the next five years prioritise key sectors like commercial agriculture, industry, ICT and services.
These he believes will be key in creating the much needed jobs for the country’s youthful population and increase household incomes and as more people slip into poverty during this pandemic.
According to Uganda National Household Survey 2019/2020, another 300,000 Ugandans were pushed into poverty by Covid-19.
The President said his government will seek reduction of the cost of factors of production like lower interest rates, cheap labour, transport, electricity and recapitalisation of Uganda Development Bank to the tune of Ush100 billion ($56 million) to enable investors access cheaper credit.
The ICT sector is growing and employs 1,282,818 people with 380,896 companies engaged in information technology, telecommunications, broadcasting, postal and courier and audio visual services but the government has mostly shot itself in the foot at growing this sector with draconian internet policies.
Over the past several years, the government has instituted random internet blockades and social media bans thwarting growth of the sector.
In the next financial year, internet users will dig deeper into their pockets for a 12 per cent levy on internet bundles that is set to replace the daily Over the Top Tax that currently allows one access to social media platforms.
The pandemic has hit the services sector really hard with tourism, the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner that brought in over $1.6 billion before the pandemic.
Museveni said his government was looking to stabilise this sector through vaccinations, but it is already facing trouble acquiring more vaccines since India, its main source, suspended vaccine exports.
“The answer to corona is vaccination. We continue to engage partners like China, India, USA and Cuba for vaccines. We are sure some of them will listen to our plea.
‘‘These efforts are to ensure prosperity of our people by helping them create jobs for themselves and other people,” Museveni said.
The President ignored prevailing issues raised mostly by the opposition, diplomatic corps and civil society such as the release of several political prisoners, especially young opposition supporters arrested during the last general election.
While he made his address, some opposition legislators brandished “free all political prisoners” placards.
Another ignored issue is the call for justice for victims shot by security forces during the November riots in Kampala.