By Dennis Katungi
Uganda had peaceful general elections on the 14th January 2021. In the aftermath, the government remains under the spotlight from various circles, mainly the opposition and their sympathetic media. On all of the allegations against the government, the accusers have failed to produce any evidence to back up their claims. Their pre-occupation is badmouthing the government. Are the opposition and their apologists living in denial? Are they suffering from a depressive election defeat syndrome?
Allegation number one is the disappearance of ‘opposition political activists’ who they simply refer to as ‘kidnapped citizens. The government instituted a cross-agency committee to look into this matter in detail and Uganda Media Centre has seen the report. Uganda Police Force was tasked to crosscheck with its sister agencies including the UPDF to ascertain that there were no ‘unknown’ prisoners languishing somewhere.
It turned out that the alleged ‘disappeared citizens’ were mainly the already known prisoners being processed by Police and Courts of law. There were an additional 17 suspects who had planned to burn down a petrol station as a way of inciting violence after the elections. Even these are in police custody and their relatives and Lawyers are in the know of their whereabouts while investigations continue. Some of their names were raised in Parliament by Hon. Ssemuju Nganda. The feigned outcry for ‘kidnapped’ Ugandans is a deliberate smear of government by the opposition.
Police acknowledge that due to peculiar circumstances, some prisoners may be held beyond the stipulated 48 hours especially if they are suspects of capital offenses like terrorism or subversion. Police also acknowledges that other security agencies such as Military Intelligence have powers to arrest, but they normally hand over suspects to Police anyway. While being processed, their families and lawyers are always informed and allowed access to these categories of prisoners.
Most operations that lead to arrests are intelligence-led. Authorities may not wait until a crime is committed if there is substantial information that a crime is being planned. Secondly, the first point of call for relatives and families to report a missing person is at LC1 and the nearest Police Station. How come there are not so many reported disappearances at this level but the so-called ‘kidnaps’ abound in both mainstream and social media? This points to a nasty whispering campaign by the opposition to malign the government.
The second allegation is the number of people allegedly killed during the riots of November 18th. The figures bundled about are not backed up by any evidence whatsoever. The death toll established and acknowledged by the government is 56 fatalities. These are people with names and records and their families are known because they were buried.
Deaths are regrettable; more so, such as those in a senseless riot that could have been avoided, however, it should not be an excuse to inflate the figures with the aim of blackening the government. Figures circulated on social media are ridiculous. Let those who make such outrageous allegations bring forth the lists of the unknown, undocumented dead. It is simply a smear campaign.
On the security siege at Hon Kyagulanyi’s residence after elections, there was intelligence linking him to planned adverse actions against the state. The State is not a passive player, especially in security matters. The siege was justified; but as soon as Court ruled that the security forces should vacate, the Government complied with an immediate withdrawal. Still, surveillance on all suspicious actors is maintained so as to nip any trouble in the bud; if and when it surfaces.
On Internet shutdown, it is acknowledged that this has caused disruption and inconvenienced all, not just the social media activists who reveled in online subterfuge, but even Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government, the private sector as well as individuals. Some resorted to the virtual private network (VPN) while Ugandans in Diaspora continue their virtual uninterrupted roam – mainly attacking Government actors who can’t reply since they are locked out. Internet shutdown continues to hurt the economy, academia, and a whole host of organizations as mentioned above. There is a strong need for the Government to quickly restore full access and revert to pre-election stature.
In his public address on the 4th February 2021, the President urged all to return to productive activities and stop politicking as that season has come to an end. What remains is for experts and courts of law to handle. Voters are urged to return to work.
Lastly, a comment on the just concluded national youth elections. I do not want to belabor the point that NRM swept all the four regions of Uganda namely - eastern, western, northern and central. NRM also took the National female youth MP slot bagged by Phiona Nyamutooro. This left me wondering where the much-touted NUP youth dividend was at! Wasn’t the People Power’s crusade centered on the youth swinging the vote to their side and sweep the NRM off the power pedestal?
It was always a fallacy to assume that the youth had abandoned the NRM, the challenges they face notwithstanding. The clean sweep of the parliamentary positions was a clear testimony to the confidence young people place in the NRM and attests to the fact that they have a stake in the NRM transformational agenda. Congratulations the youth of Uganda.
Dennis Katungi is the Communications & Media Relations Manager – Uganda Media Centre