Sunday, May 21, 2017

Uganda swamped with #PoliceBrutality, crime, hunger, drought, famine, army worms - @IGPUganda @aKasingye @KagutaMuseveni @PoliceUg

Uganda is going through an interesting patch right now. It has been weeks since a wave of criminality has been sweeping through the capital Kampala, and parts of its countryside.
Armed gangs have resorted to a number of daring methods. Some specialise in car theft and muggings. Preferred methods include waylaying motorists returning home from work, at the gates to their homes.
As the motorist waits for the gate to be opened, the criminals emerge out of the darkness and surround the vehicle. Within no time, the vehicle is taken. In many cases, it is the last time it will be seen. Recovery rates for vehicles stolen in this way are abysmally low.
Victims who have tried to follow up with law enforcement agencies tell a variety of stories. Very few are uplifting or reassure potential victims that should anything similar befall them, they will get help from those who ought to provide it.
Lucky victims do not lose their vehicles. Instead, their windscreens and windows are smashed to cause momentary disorientation. It allows the thieves to grab whatever they can through the smashed windows and then disappear into the night. Interestingly, according to stories doing the rounds, victims almost always never bother to report these incidents to law enforcement agencies. They simply get their vehicles repaired and carry on, hoping for the best.
And then there are nocturnal raids on homes by gangs wielding iron bars, machetes, hammers and other weapons. They smash through windows and doors, whatever materials they are made of, and take what they want. Some add insult to injury by taunting their victims and, depending on where in the country they were born, urging them to “go back where you came from.”
In some upcountry regions, the criminals even warn residents of their impending visit, stating the moment when they will strike. And then they come, rob and maim, sometimes leaving a few dead behind. These “operations” are that brazen.
Among other questions members of the public are asking themselves, are two very pointed ones: Who are these people? Where do they derive the courage to terrorise fellow citizens as if they are sure no one will touch them?
Now, of course, forces of law and order do react. Except that they do not always do so fast enough. And when they do, the criminals simply move on to other areas. And then there are abductions and kidnappings, some of which end in loss of life.
Violent crime, however, is hardly the only issue currently exercising people’s minds. There are other manifestations of the Ugandan state falling short of performing some of the core functions of any state worthy of its name: Ensuring physical security and the general wellbeing of citizens.
A few days ago, a friend sent me a newspaper clip. The title was one of those that do not allow you the luxury of wondering whether you want to spend time reading it: “Agony as Ntoroko loses 15,000 cattle to drought.”
Uganda has experienced drought during a significant part of this year. So that is no longer news. What is news are the effects it has had in parts of the country.
Several media reports have brought to light how the northeastern region of Karamoja is already experiencing food shortages leading to a near-famine situation. There is nothing new here, either. Karamoja has been famine-prone for decades.
The Ntoroko situation, though, is intriguing. The region neighbours one of Uganda’s largest lakes, Lake Albert. One need not be a genius to wonder why a region neighbouring such a large body of water, which has never dried up, could lose vast numbers of cattle to lack of water and pasture.
Now listen to this: When Ntoroko is not the victim of drought, it suffers from the effects of massive flooding. So where does all the floodwater go? Obviously not into a system of government-owned and government-managed artificial dams, to be stored for when the drought returns and to be used by cattle farmers to grow fodder and make silage.
Ironically, cattle keeping and associated activities account for 80 per cent of total local revenue generated by some local government jurisdictions. Which makes it all the more surprising that hardly anything has been done to ensure that the livestock industry is not endangered by adverse weather conditions.
According to a local official, “If cattle keepers are taught how to make hay and silage, this can solve the issue of shortage of pasture.” It is not clear who the gentleman expects to do the necessary teaching and organisation thereof.
There is much discussion among concerned observers about what needs to happen to ensure that the Ugandan state develops the capacity to fulfil its core functions on a consistent basis and to plan for and respond to emergencies. The conventional, easy-to-arrive-at view is that what is needed is a change of government and the assumption of power by, preferably a different political party and new actors.
The unorthodox and not-at-all-popular view, infuriating to many but more likely to produce durable outcomes, is that the political elite and their respective political parties must put aside their narrow ambitions and think through the options together.
Frederick Golooba-Mutebi is a Kampala- and Kigali-based researcher and writer on politics and public affairs. E-mail:

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