KAMPALA – When the United Kingdom’s Counter Terrorism Policing and France announced there was an eminent terror attack on Uganda, our Uganda Police watered down the threat in an effort to portray themselves as having the capacity to prevent such threats from being implemented.
The police confessed that there were sleeper cells already in the country adding that efforts were underway to dismantle the network and that our terror alert levels were not elevated yet but before long, we were hit below the belt.
Like any other weekend, last Saturday began with its usual anxiety, watching a premiership
game with a bottle of beer and a lusaniya of pork in front an infidel like myself is always pleasing.
Yet on the other hand, it appears the “pig” whose pork product is the meat that lies on my plate is not happy to see me happy and crafts a plan to punish me.
To punish me for using my hard-earned money to buy its pork product. Why not blame this on the farmer who also spends his money and time to rearing the “pig” that eventually becomes pork when slaughtered.
When news broke out later in the night that a bomb had exploded at an eatery at komamboga, police quickly cordoned off the place and locked out the media before taking charge of the scene of crime for possible pieces of evidence.
Uganda Police has been cagey with information linking the explosion to any terrorist beyond Uganda.
The Police Force’s spokesperson said positioning the bomb close to a wall reduced the devastation. I am not a security expert but I think Enanga made a mistake in giving such vital information to the attackers, next time they may place it in a more conspicuous place with a wider spectrum for better devastation.
Am waiting to hear information that the attackers have been arrested and that they have
confessed to have detonated the bomb. Let us not forget the premises of the attack according to police had many small pork joints and none had a security protocol such as physical checks or Closed-Circuit Television cameras or controlled access.
The only available cameras that could have caught a footage of fleeing attackers is about a kilometre away. On the other hand there are many intersecting roads where these fugitives could have found an escape route.
Short of clues, the Police camera analysts spent the better part of Sunday and Monday visiting homes and businesses in the neighbor with the hope of finding private security cameras to retrieve footages to aid their investigations. Enanga who had previously poured cold water on the threat finally confessed that they had ‘‘taken some hard lessons’’ in the aftermaths of a Kampala City bombing that left one person dead, three others severely injured and millions of Kampala residents especially the night hawks scared for their lives.
In an effort to cover up the shame, police referred to the explosion at Komamboga as a crude bomb left underneath a table and pointed to the work of an unsophisticated local outfit, and played down any connection to foreign networks.
To me an attack is an attack and it does not matter whether it has a foreign hand or not, whether the tools used were crude or rudimentary, what matters is the impact it causes and the fear it creates when many of us had long forgotten about terrorism.
It was also wrong for the police to refer to the terror attack as an act of an unsophisticated localoutfit. If it was a local outfit, how did foreign countries like the United Kingdom and Franceknow about the pending attacks on Uganda? Do these local outfits with rudimentary homemade bombs have the capacity to disseminate such confidential plans to the international community?
The Counter-Terrorism Policing was emphatic that attacks could be indiscriminate extending topublic places like hotels, transport hubs, restaurants and bars, and during major gatherings likesporting or religious events. Wherever they got their information is not our business, what is important that what they warned against has happened and has so far claimed life and left scores injured.
The police need to be reminded that they have a constitutional duty to protect Ugandans and their belongings with no room to gamble with matters of security.
Looking at the scanty details of the bomb explosion incident at komamboga and another explosion inside Swift bus, one has reason to worry that these indiscriminate attacks are just starting and I think it is better for police to put their over rated abilities aside and heed to the warning.
When the blast went off on Saturday, it was revealed that many of the hung-out joints were operating at full capacity during curfew hours with the knowledge, consent and or approval of the area kawukumi-weavils in the Uganda Police. However, a question that goes unanswered is why the local council committees and undercover security organs did not report the same for action.
No wonder the Kampala Metropolitan police commander Stephen Tanui blamed the area police officers in Komamboga which is under Kawempe division for being reluctant in the enforcement of night curfew. It does not matter whether the joint was operating after curfew time restrictions, what is important is that these attackers are determined to punish us even during day time.
Hearing this blame game, am left wondering if the top police leadership will ever acknowledge security lapses in the country. They are always looking for somebody to push under the bus.
There are thousands of hang out joints all over this country that have never closed their doors to night life. A friend informed me that towns like Fort portal don’t know what curfew means. Most of these places belong to those manning the country’s security, people who are well connected or people who are paying money to operate behind the shadows and under the protection of Uganda police.
Cases in point are several bars in and out of Kampala such as Najera, Kyanja, Kulambiro, Kyaliwajala, Kololo, Kyadondo rugby club among others. Infact many of these are prone to bomb attacks as they have long forgotten to check their clients before entry.
Whenever bombs explode anywhere in Uganda, everybody looks at his/her neighbour to
establish if they have a long beard. Infact there was a time when one of the former Police bosses wanted to outlaw long beards akin to those of Talibans. Whether the bomb explosions were the handmaids of Islamic State or some other group is not an issue, what is important is that the attack took place and we must devise ways of protecting our people.
Following the explosion at Komamboga, I fear the next casualties could be churchgoers and marketplaces. A lot of focus has been placed on covid 19 where temperature guns and sanitizing have taken over security measures exposing Ugandans to attacks. For long I have been asking myself why the government has been reluctant to control the influx of petrol stations. It is hard or even impossible to travel beyond a kilometer without coming across a petrol station, even the central business hub is home to hundreds of petrol stations, they are a timing bomb that can be used by terrorist.
Has anyone imagined that even fuel tankers could be used as a weapon of attack? I always see fuel tankers driving into the city centre even during hours of jam and I wonder why no one has looked into such a massive threat. These trailers should only be allowed into the city after 11:00pm up to around 5:00am. It does not matter whether or not these fuel tankers are carrying fuel to petrol stations belonging to those who consider themselves untouchable.
I recall a directive some years back that required the police to escort all fuel tankers from the border points to Uganda. I also recall another silly decision where motorists were not allowed to buy fuel in jerricans even if it was for a generator and as if fuel could not be drained from a car tank and used for wrong purposes. This directive was short-lived, before long, it is the drivers who would decide how and when to enter Kampala and other major towns of the country.
Those who have lived in this rugged Kampala city for more than twenty years will recall that Bomb explosions have always lived with us especially around 1999, a year that was baptized the year of our lord. Back them a day would not pass without explosions in buses, leisure joint and commuter taxis. There were no social media platforms and information-hungry television or radio stations to report timely happenings. Newspapers would move at a snail’s pace, my grandfather in Budadiri would receive a copy of his Sunday vision on Friday- 6 days later. What is important is that the content of the old Sunday newspaper would remain news provided the same was new to the reader.
Bomb explosions hit Kampala so much that we became immune to fear and threats. As usual, the suspects were said to be conservative Islamic fundamentalists. The bomb attacks were blamed on the rebel Allied Democratic Forces fighting the government mainly in western Uganda and performing cleansing rituals to punish infidels. The police said they believed some foreign forces were closely working with the insurgents to destabilize Uganda.
In fact whenever a loved one travelled to town, we would only pray that they return in one piece until the situation was contained. By then, the title “pig” was not known or that our leaders were afraid to refer to a Muslim fundamentalist a pig irrespective of the crime committed, it was an abomination that would call for more bombings in retaliation and of course more deaths.
As time went by, our local dailies reported an incident in which bomb explosions killed four people and injured over 22 others in a Valentine day celebration at an open air Telex bar and another at a grocery store within Kabalagala.
The then police spokesman Eric Naigambi announced that three people died on the scene while the other died on the way to Mulago. Years later on July 11, 2010, at the famous Ethiopian village and Rugby grounds at Kyadondo, innocent people who had gone to watch the world cup final game between Spain and the Netherlands suffered death and injuries.
The explosion killed over 49 people from the rugby club and another 15 at the Ethiopian restaurant while several others were badly injured. Some of the dead were blown beyond recognition suggesting a suicide bomber may have been responsible for the attack. Back in Somalia, Sheik Yusuf Sheik Issa, an al-Shabab commander, told.
Mr. Roger Wadada Musaalo is a Lawyer, human rights activist, researcher, and politician