In Summary

The issue: Curbing crime
Our view: Rebuild police as a civilian force, disengage it from partisan political action to regain public trust and re-create its special branch.

Uganda is caught in the throes of a security mystery. It manifests in assassinations of high-profile government, security and religious officials, emergence of urban criminal gangs and increased gun violence.

At least a dozen Muslim clerics, one top State prosecutor, a UPDF Major, one Member of Parliament and two senior police officers have been brutally gunned down in metropolitan Kampala and major towns since 2012.

The killings bear the hallmark of trained assassins. The method, timing and clinical executions have similarities - so striking and more frightening to hapless citizens. It is eroding public confidence in government. Victims are trailed, targeted and shot dead either at gates of their places of abode or inside cars. Assailants flee on motorcycles.

Some 4473 people were murdered in Uganda in 2017 alone, 158 higher than 2016 figures, according to Uganda annual crime report released on July 18, this year. The government’s buzzword: We’ll hunt down the killers to face justice. Some suspects have been arrested. Others tried. But there is no end in sight for these surreal and macabre murders.

We acknowledge that President Museveni, as the Commander-In-Chief, unveiled a 10-point master security plan. He also announced military guards for MPs and, on Sunday, said the government is drafting 24,000 reservists. Most of these will be drawn from Local Defence Unit personnel and crime preventers.

It is our position that many of the solutions are knee-jerk, reactionary and not proactive. Concentrating guns and reservists, some likely to be of dubious character, in a congested city will incubate, if not exacerbate, the gun violence problem. It also treats a symptom, not cause of the crime wave.

Here are our proposed options: Urgently audit manpower and guns in all security and covert outfits and re-vet operatives for retention, redeployment, re-training and or retrenchment. Restructure State security agencies through mergers to eliminate toxic rivalry, infiltration, intrigue and wastage.

Invest in specialised training, provide hi-tech capabilities and enforce intelligence-led security operations. Rebuild police as a civilian force, disengage it from partisan political action to regain public trust and re-create its special branch to gather reliable intelligence to guide law and order decisions. Restructure political governance and resolve economic headwinds undergirding citizens’ opprobrium. Install and integrate operations of surveillance cameras systems of state and private institutions, including homes, under state-monitored central command.

Create specialised multi-skill mobile security unit with rapid response capability. These should comprise commandos, snipers, scene of crime officers and super-trained intelligence officers focused on hot-spot policing. Integrate bio-data of citizens held by motley state institution and deploy facial recognition technology to rapidly appraise CCTV-captured images. Conduct intelligence-led sting operations to recover illicit weapons.