After calm restored to the city, two days after the burning of Kasubi tombs, the questions have moved to the conduct of armed forces which led to the killing of three unarmed civilians. Human rights defenders are calling on government to stop the use of plain clothed operatives in riot times.
Most of these operatives were seen weilding pistols pointing at crowds at Kasubi. The use of plain clothed operatives to do government’s dirty job against it’s opponents in the past is well documented. During Kampala riots last September, Radio One presenter and moderator Karundi Serumaga was arrested by these operatives, tortured and was later dumped at a hospital.
Most political opponents and commentators face threats from such operatives. They arrest people with no court warrant and their work was at display between 2001-2005 when they continiously without warrants arrested many people linking them with the Peoples Redemption Army (PRA), a rebel group that is known only by our government.
Non-uniformed operatives again had an upper hand in storming the High Court to re-arrest PRA suspects who had just been granted bail in March 2007 . A scene that the Principal Judge James Ogoola described as the “the rape of the temple of justice.”
Med Kaggwa, the chairman of Human Rights Commission yesterday argued that
Operatives in civilian outfits find it easy to commit crimes, knowing they will neither be identified nor traced. This disturbs us a great deal because when an incident happens, as indeed it happened [on Wednesday], you cannot tell if the person is a security operative or a state enemy.”
Another incident on April 17, 2007 during a political demonstration against the give-away of part of Mabira forest for sugarcane growing , stick-wielding men in civilian attire, came onto the scene and whipped the demonstrators. The police never restrained them, they seemed to be working hand in hand and government later denied they were part of their security teams. Later, an invesitgation by a partly government owned newspaper New Vision showed that
There are at least five Kampala-based groups of strong men trained to control crowds without using fire arms. Three are registered with the Ugandan Police as unarmed private security firms. The other two are loose groups of muscled men, one attached to the Uganda Taxi Operators and Drivers’ Association (UTODA) and the other based at Arua Park. Whereas the registered groups are independent of the Government, they are sometimes seen operating alongside the Police.
Daily Monitor today also reported the number of those shot when the military dispersed a rowdy crowd ahead of President Museveni’s tour rose to seven.
As this discussion went, in my home district Bushenyi, a police officer commonly knows SPCs shot and injured three unarmed high school students who were cheering their teams after winning a football match at Kabwohe.
This comes only a month when two students of Kaloke Christian High School in Nakaseke District were shot by an SPC, after they had camped outside the head teacher’s office, protesting the poor conditions at the school.
These events tell us that criminal acts by those supposed to protect us are not about to stop, these trigger-happy well trained forces in handling civilians in an inhumane way are endagering our lives each day. It doesn’t if you’re a demonstrator or just not interested in anything going on, the chances of being in the wrong place with these security operatives have become high.They are even higher if these forces are not in uniform. I have heard stories of these operatives entering bars and threatening people at the smallest disagreement. In fact there are bars in Kampala where you enter and find these pistol weilding operatives. This is to tell you their threat is not only limited during riot times. Am hoping we wont stop at just statements from the Human Rights Commission.