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Impunity, Vindictive Media Undermine Democracy

By Ofwono Opondo

Oct.24, 18

Ugandans across the political aisle have recently rightly expressed public fury against security agencies collectively, and individual personnel, on the recurrent lapses in law enforcement that borders on barefaced impunity characterised by negligence and incompetence, open brutality, condescending attitude, and laxity in holding offenders accountable.
Previously, it was the Uganda Police, which had distinguished itself as the kingpin of impunity, incompetence, negligence of duty, and never minding about its tattered public image, especially from high-handed operations, torture of suspects under custody, and many inconclusive investigations of high profile cases. Following the reshuffle of its top leadership early this year, the public anxiously expected fast and dramatic positive changes towards professionalism.  
Last week’s broad-day brutal arrest, in the middle of Kampala, of a hitherto unknown one Yusuf Katuruba alias Kawooya, by armed men in civilian outfit, who bundled him into a passenger commuter van, left many, agape for days, when those responsible, took time to admit their folly. We appreciate that there are indeed many hardcore and violent criminals in Kampala, who may need aggressive tackling, but for Katuruba, considering that he wasn’t armed or violent, didn’t deserve that treatment. This conduct, coming on the heels of post Arua municipality parliamentary bye-election which had subsided, was most surprising.
One hopes, that the steps, modest as they may appear, taken by the UPDF, to indict and punish, its men from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), involved in “conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline,” will assuage public indignation. Again, coming on the backdrop of recent events where UPDF personnel where seen mercilessly clobbering two photojournalists, James Akena (Reuters), and Alfred Ochwo (Observer), doesn’t augur well for its good reputation built over many years now.
And while we deal with a superficial and sometimes openly vindictive media, the leaders of our security agencies, hitherto pro-people, must be told in clear terms, that impunity has no room in a functioning and vibrant democracy where the rule of law prevails. These episodes, have also exposed the double standards of the so-called ’human rights defenders’, who are actually vengeful political charlatans.
While they have previously condemned the police for parading suspects not yet charged in courts of law before the media as violation of human rights, they have this week equally been guilty  of exposing the identities of security operatives, and condemning them unheard in the  media, sometimes falsely, to be behind brutality. To these mendacious lawyers, journalists and human rights activists, we must tell them too, that their behaviour is a low bar and should have no place in civilized public discourse which they demand from others while claiming to have higher moral grounds.
It has been heart-breaking in the past weeks, reading in The New Vision, the leading newspaper, of sustained efforts at spreading malicious propaganda, using a purported intelligence report, most likely from rogue elements, linking former Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura to the assassination of former police spokesperson, Andrew Felix Kaweesi. Any bona fide media ought to know that under Uganda’s laws and judicial system, only investigations from the police Criminal Investigations Department (CID) can sustain a criminal prosecution, otherwise anything else is hearsay. And yet, when called upon by police investigators to attest their claims, they are quick to cry foul, witch-hunt, and obstruction to media freedom. Surely, we must reclaim the prestige of the leading media and not descend into the murky, rancid morass of third grade social media, and citizen journalism.
While Kayihura may be down, it is premature for any serious analyst of events in Uganda to conclude that he is done and out. But in any case, it is the same media that preaches to us professional journalistic principles of being factual, objective and fair to every party to the story being covered.
This negative excitement doing the rounds that Gen. Kayihura, is, perhaps, going through poetic justice, having been previously praised many times by President Yoweri Museveni as a “good cadre” of the NRM revolution, is in my view sadism. Kayihura has indeed been a good national cadre who was resolute in carrying out the revolutionary line for a long time, and has perhaps fallen in the course of duty because it isn’t easy to be good and act consistently in the broad interests of the people all through one's life.
Therefore, we must know how to judge cadres, and not merely confine ourselves to a short period or few incidents in their lives. President Museveni knows how to train, mentor and take good care of cadres and non cadres alike, as well as those from other political parties who choose to work with him to build Uganda. He usually appoints and deploys them, gives guidance, allows them a free hand in their work so they build the courage and confidence to execute their responsibilities
President Museveni has always explained that he is patient with people who make mistakes and prefers to help them correct their ways if they are willing, than rush to discard them because every human being is prone to making mistakes.