In 1989, and just three years after capturing power, President Museveni ruled out the option of superintending a country in which a citizen is killed without state authorities catching the culprits.
“I will not preside over a country where a Ugandan is killed and the authorities do not know who has killed him,” he said in a Uganda Broadcasting Corporation video clip now widely circulating on social media.
Yesterday, and after 32 years in office, the Arua District chairman, Mr Sam Wadri Nyakua, tasked the President at the burial of slain Arua Municipality Member of Parliament Ibrahim Abiriga to explain why Ugandans are being killed like chicken.
“Your Excellency, you are the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces; you have fought many wars and defeated the enemies. Why are these types of killings happening?” Mr Nyakua asked, referring to the brutality with which gunmen eliminated Abiriga and his brother-cum-bodyguard Saidi Buga Kongo on Friday in Kawanda, Wakiso District.
Motorcycle-riding assailants have over the past five years trailed their victims, shooting them multiple times in a manner that suggests the handiwork of experienced assassins.
And it was the same way in which the lives of Abiriga and the brother were brutally and abruptly ended at about 6:30pm last Friday.
Former police spokesperson Andrew Felix Kaweesi and the then senior State prosecutor Joan Kagezi alongside more than half-a-dozen sheikhs have suffered a similar fate.
Whereas no suspect was picked for Kagezi’s killing in 2015, dozens were incarcerated over the deaths of the sheikhs and Kaweesi, with either the court or police themselves freeing several for lack of evidence.
MPs cry out
This pattern of unexplained killings, which some legislators said had placed them on the tenterhooks, formed the main theme of talk for officials at Abiriga’s interment at his Rhino Camp ancestral home.
“We are living under fear, under panic because I don’t know if I’m going to be shot today or tomorrow,” Arua chairman Nyakua said to applause from mourners. “You are still in-charge and these types of killings must stop, Your Excellency,”
MP Peter Ogwang (Usuk, NRM) said they as MPs have been receiving threats, sometimes from colleagues, warning of their plans to kill them and their children.
“This country is degenerating into a situation where it will soon be ungovernable,” Mr Ogwang warned, disclosing that his wife and children weep whenever he leaves home because they are not sure if he will return alive.
There was a chorus from across the political divide for a faster solution to the killings.
In a rejoinder, President Museveni acknowledged the problem but downplayed it as non-military challenge, likening it to spotting a needle in a haystack, which he said can be handled through better intelligence gathering and civilian vigilance.
“Now people are worried, they are sad, they are angry. Me, I am sad, angry but I’m confident we are going to defeat these people,” he said.
“They have opened war; they have killed our people and they will know what NRM means [when it fights]. Why do you kill an elected leader of the people of Uganda? If you start war with NRM, you know you will lose. You find a man in his house or a car and you kill him? You are a pig!” Mr Museveni said.
Such characters, he said, are part of “orindi onzi (evil spirits)”.
First Lady Janet Museveni also attended the burial.
President Museveni: “Abiriga was influencing people by example; I did not know some of his works. The ones who killed him are sons of ghosts of Uganda.”
Odonga Otto, Aruu MP: “I can say with certainty that the terrorists targeted the wrong person. Death is death and it must not be used to derive political dividennds whatsoever.”
Issa Kato, Arua Municipality mayor: “In our culture, these acts (Sunday violence) are usual. You lose someone like that (Abiriga), you lose your brain and behave anyhow.”
Morine Osoru, Arua Woman MP:
“I (Abiriga) told my people that I don’t want to stand again. Do you (Arua Woman MP Morine Osoru) want me to stand until my legs start crossing?”