By Faruk Kirunda
For the first time in the history of mankind, this year, amidst the scare of illogical actors working to blemish our restfulness as a country, Ugandans have literally seen the faces of evil in broad daylight.
On Tuesday, November 16, the bustling but restive city of Kampala was rent by loud explosions that shook the foundations of buildings and sent up plumes of smoke, signaling a surge of extremist acts of hate and bloodletting. ADF suicide bombers had detonated bombs at strategic points in the city, killing people, injuring others and scaring more.
I was within the central business district when that happened and, like everyone else, I was scared. When it was confirmed that these were bombs that had gone off, many people were uncertain as to who was responsible and why. Soon after, police issued statements and named the perpetrators. Eventually, President Yoweri Museveni, issued his own version of things which compounded the position of Government on the attacks; he gave details of who the attackers were and reassured the nation on his promise to secure their future (a subject that needs deeper broaching).
In a widely broadcast address on Saturday, November 20, the President further exposed the ADF’s agenda and enumerated SOME successes that security has scored against them and other such groups and, yet again, assured Ugandans that there was no need to worry beyond the on-the-spot fright they had experienced and urged them to do their part by being vigilant and supportive of security’s efforts to bring to a total halt all acts of terror. What else would be expected of a leader in such circumstances?
Remember that terrorism is not a nightmare only in Uganda. In less than a week before the Kampala attacks, a suicide bomber had detonated a device at a women’s hospital in UK; this is UK which previously warned of attacks in Uganda. You would expect that UK is better placed to detect and prevent such events but we are in this together as a global community-which is a good thing because humanity, working together, cannot fail to score on common objectives, although we have those pulling in the opposite direction, while wittingly or unwittingly “arming” the perpetrators.
Amidst the horror of loss of life, injury and disruption to life, the fact that we could see the bombers in action, albeit in postmortem, marked a turning point in the fight against terrorism and criminality in general, and all thanks to the ingenuity of President Museveni driven by an undying inborn revolutionary spirit. We saw the killers in footage captured by CCTV cameras at both spots of major impact and routes used by the attackers.
Before the roll out of the CCTVs at the president’s insistence from 2018, we would not have known or seen much apart from debris at the scene. There would have been unbearable skepticism and conspiracy theories among the general public and confused elite. Technology does not lie and in raising this idea and following it through, President Museveni has further distinguished himself as a pragmatic thinker and modernist, progressive person who is not in leadership just to pass time. Installing CCTVs came with a cost but it has rendered true value for money seeing the fruits of the proposal which was, as usual, resisted and downplayed by some.
We first had a feel and taste of what smart thinking could do for Uganda immediately after the attack on Gen. Katumba Wamala in June. Lives had been lost, the General and his bodyguard were injured, and the public was apprehensive but comforted after seeing images of the attackers before, during and after the attack. The bad guys were then traced and hauled in one at a time or in groups, and the hunt has been on since.
Desperate, they were trying to rush through more attacks, which were neutralised until they got a chance on “black Tuesday” but which again exposed them to be seen all over the country and the world executing their evil deeds. It was like a movie, but being real, it told us how far some people are prepared to go to make the world a worse place counting on anonymity and the ability to slither away after terrorising normal society. Not much more and, soon, I believe, anymore; and it’s my conviction that President Museveni deserves special recognition and an award (or awards) for his idea(s) of applying modern technology to solving real problems of Ugandans! He does not work for awards but the great Baganda people have a saying: Entasiima ebula agiwa (He or she who does not appreciate soon has no one to give him or her anything).
The President should be credited and supported so that he can continue giving us a drink from his cup of wisdom. These gadgets were already in existence but no one had thought about or promoted them to be used in public security surveillance. Attackers themselves are now choosy about where to go with their activities. Soon, they will be sniffed out before they attack and that ugly chapter in our country’s existence will be closed and Uganda will be a case study in the fight against terrorism the way it is with Covid-19.
The author is the Deputy Presidential Press Secretary.
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