It was supposed for be a joyful day. Uganda, a football loving country just like many in different corners of the world was waiting to see who would lift the first World Cup trophy on the African soil. Hosting the World Cup, even when it was thousands of miles away at the Soccer City, was something the filled the hearts of many Africans with pride. On this day I was in Johannesburg, in Soweto watching the great performances of the likes of Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Angelique Kidjo, Eric Wainaina and Oliver Mutukudzi as they wrapped up the World Cup with great African rythms.
In the later hours of the day shortly before Spain lifted the trophy, Uganda witnessed horror as twin bomb blasts ripped through bodies of young men and women. 76 lives most of them young Ugandans were taken in just a few minutes at Kyandondo and Ethiopian restaurant. Al Shabab, the al-Qaida linked Somali militant group had been warning the country over our troops that have been deployed in Mogadishu since 2007 and they later claimed the responsibility.
The last one month, the Ugandan media especially Daily Monitor has done a great job covering the lives of those who survived the 7/11 and those whose loved ones were taken by the bombings.
However we have not comprehensively covered what happened in regard to the bombers and how the 7/11 bombings happened. Our government did carry out arrests even cross the border in Kenya and Tanzania but not much has come out of this. There has not been any proper trial. We have seen reports of Kenyan human rights defenders locked in our jails, many people locked without charge and it seems Uganda has emulated tactics from the American war on terror that saw thousands of innocent people jailed without trail.
Daily Monitor today carried a story of how terrorists lived in close proximity with top defense officials in the country and yet our intelligence failed to unearth the bombing plans.
“It was apparently planned in Mogadishu, the explosives assembled in Kenya’s Eastleigh, a Nairobi suburb, while the funding was allegedly wired from Pakistan and execution carried – to devastating effect – in Kampala by among others, ordinary-looking Ugandans some of who fraternised even with the senior army officers.
In the story the Army spokesperson Felix Kulaigye informs us that terrorism is impossible to stop.
“Terrorism is impossible to stop since it has no face or religion. You can only minimise their chances,” he said, pointing to the September 11, 2001 Al Qaeda attacks on the US, despite the world super-power’s sophisticated security arrangement.
Ugandan photojournalist Edward Echwalu captured the memorial service held today to mark the one year 711 bombimg anniversary in Kampala. One message from caught my eye ” 7/11 bomb blast, we remember one year later, our spirit is not shaken…”
It’s important to support families of those who lost loved ones not just by throwing money at them but give them psychosocial support. But above all we need to ensure that no more bombings take away another Ugandan life.
While it’s difficult to stop a man willing to take his own life in order to kill others, its’ possible to be truthful about our engagement in Somalia which is the main link to why the attacks took place our soil in the first place.
After the bombings most Ugandans started asking what we were doing in Somalia, before not many ever cared that we had troops there. Terrorism can inflict pain on anyone but our spirit to seek a genuine engagement and understanding our foreign policies and their impact should not wither.
Many believe we are fighting someone else’s war in Somalia and we will no doubt pay the price. After fighting the Taliban for 10 years, the US is leaving Afghanistan with not much to show in terms of stability. Last month US drones wounded militants in Somalia. My worry and the worry of many Ugandans is that our country as well as Burundi have embroiled themselves in war on terror when they have the least capacity to protect their own citizens from the retaliation that is always assured. Despite our troops being in Mogadishu as peacekeepers, this is very much a war and years have shown that we are still looked at as a representation of foreign interests in Somalia by Somalis. This argument has its own basis. Ugandans need to question our involvement in Mogadishu and whether our leaders have any plan to leave.