Last week, the Member of Parliament for Kyaddondo East, Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu, suddenly appeared in Bugiri at the burial of Hajji Siraje Lyavala. By then, social media was awash with rumours that he had escaped from house arrest at his home in Magere. The preventive arrest measure had been undertaken following Kyagulanyi’s arrest from Busabala where he had rallied supporters to show solidarity with him over his cancelled Easter shows.
From common understanding, the house arrest was not going to be permanent; at some point he would have to be let go after security assessing that threat levels had gone down. But how Bobi suddenly appeared in public was of great concern both for his safety and for public good.
Police had nothing to say but the MP’s supporters were all over celebrating that their man had beaten their surveillance. While for him it was a sign of apparent invincibility and for the fans he appeared like a movie star, the import of the lapse is that police is unable to take charge of security.
How could a civilian, surrounded in his house by tight security, find a way out? Was there bribery involved? Is police now in the pocket of the opposition? Were the cops caught asleep on the job? If the cordon ended, who authorised it and why? Why didn’t police speak out to clear the air on the matter? There are many questions, very few answers.
Most of the questions are renting the minds of Ugandans. How assured are they that police which cannot secure just one homestead can provide security for the whole country? Who is safe? When did the profile of Ugandan security forces take a shaky form?
This incident must be probed thoroughly and the results widely publicised to restore faith in the security forces, specifically the police which has come under increasing scrutiny in the way it does its work. If not for being brutal, it is for negligence.
In the past, it was Dr. Kizza Besigye whom they used to play cat and mouse games with. The fiery politician would at one point be under tight confinement at his Kasangati home only to hear moments later that he is in the center of town or at a function in the countryside. Questions would be asked and no answers would come forth. Is it going to become the order of policing business? How shall the same cops defeat general criminality, like the kidnaps and murders, corruption and terrorists who are ever looking for loopholes to get through? If it were not for the expertise of President Yoweri Museveni who relies on the military and other elite forces to strengthen security, there would be a top crash on the way to a failed state that. That’s how critical this matter is and the earlier we get to the root of the problem, the better.
Of recent it has been reported that suspected terrorists have sneaked in and out for Uganda, and immigration is under fire for the lapse-if at all it is true. But we cannot take chances; they didn’t slip through, they must not slip through in future. The same with police; any errors should be tied on history.
Police already suffers a perverse reputation on account of widely known professional misconduct and the public expects a major shift in its work methods. Police should set the example for omuntu wa bulijjo (ordinary citizen) so as to be respected.
As we head to the 2021 elections, the public needs guarantees that the force is up to the task of securing everyone at a time of heightened activity. Police should speak out and justify its usefulness!
The author is a Private Assistant to H.E the President in Charge of Media Management