Who exactly are these LDUs protecting?

After his attack on Buganda in 1966, President Milton Obote was met with incredible bitterness from the Baganda. 

It became increasingly difficult to govern Buganda, which also houses the seat of government. Obote had to find a way of deflecting Baganda anxiety from the attack towards something else.

His government grafted armed robbers – bakondo – into their ranks to terrorize Baganda. Upon this, Baganda started demanding security, and President Obote simply asked his men to cease fire. Indeed, in one simple act, Obote successfully deflected Buganda anxiety from what he could not do to something he could deliver on.

Securitizing leadership/politics is an old practice. Leadership/politics gets reduced to and thus  seen only through the lens of security.  Security becomes the singular response to government failure in public service delivery, and the justification for abuse of human rights and other freedoms.

So are slogans such as “Ugandans can now sleep” and legislations such as “preventive arrest.” But for government to ably pull off this trickery, they have to create [manageable] insecurity in the first place. It is a form of mafia politics.

Question: are the present large-scale manifestations of insecurity – and their attendant security projects – in Uganda the work of ordinary criminals or are these the games of politicians?  To answer this question, we have to return to the most spectacular murders of our time. 

The quality of violence that characterized the murder of Afande Felix Kaweesi was the most outrageous in Uganda’s history.  Several full magazines were emptied into the body of a single target. 

The bravery and sophistication with which Susan Magara’s killers went about their business is only seen in movies. I have never seen President Museveni so helpless as he were in the Susan Magara murder.

The captors ordered him into spectating. Announcing the murder to the family was his only contribution. But this is the goddamned president of the republic, the man in charge of all intelligence and tools of coercion. He could only look on!

Maj Muhammad Kiggundu’s murder on a bright morning in the middle of urban activity also achieved cinematic proportions. So was MP Ibrahim Abiriga’s, and Afande Muhammad Kirumira’s. 

With all the weaponry and finesse in execution, could this be the handiwork of ordinary folks? Unless you were cursed into idiocy. Then came the women murders in Entebbe whose lifeless bodies were sometimes dumped just outside the perimeter wall of the State House. 

There is no way this could be the handiwork of Uganda’s ragtag Muslims who cannot even manage their only signature building, the Gaddafi Mosque complex. But as the narrative went, the country was convinced that the murders were carried out by ordinary criminals. 

Indeed, in response, the president, like were the most qualified security expert in the land, every after a murder, would announce one measure after another. He was basically gambling but we had to take him seriously: re-registrations of SIM cards, and installation of CCTV cameras across Kampala. Soon, hoodies were banned, crime preventers recalled and re-assigned, and more recently, return of Local Defense Units.

Kampala suburbs are teeming with soldiers – the LDUs. You will find them in full military fatigues laden with modern assault rifles.  In teams of seven to fourteen men, they patrol Kampala’s dusty suburbs day and night.

Every village in Kampala has these men with permanent deployment – and the number will only increase. Together, there are over 40,000 armed men spread across Kampala overseeing ordinary folks go about their business.

But the hardcore crimes the country has witnessed were not committed by ordinary folks with addresses in the suburbs.  The government newspaper New Vision has confirmed this variously. Thus, to understand these deployments, we have to look elsewhere.

The Obote script has some interesting insights. The reasons for the murders could have been various and changed with time. The murder of Muslim scholars, Afande Kaweesi, Abiriga and Kirumira could have been different. 

But the women murders reek of securitizing politics. But this time, not to simply deflect attention from say the economic crises that have defined the previous five years.  But protecting power.

With Kampala as the likely epicenter of revolutionary riots, the regime of President Museveni has had to manufacture a narrative to enable them to insert soldiers in the villages.  If there were any protests or plans for protest, they would be stopped within the suburbs – which ensures the regime continues.

But in protecting power, some dividends such as reduction in petty crime and house break-ins are being enjoyed by the wananchi – who are gullibly celebrating with their lives.


The author is a PhD fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd