UGNANDA: IT’S TIME UGANDA PROVES ITS CCTV CAMERAS ARE NOT SCARECROWS

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Ugandan Police battling with FDC Party President Patrick Oboi Amuriat in Gulu City last year

“If such people are shot in broad day life and the assailants disappear without any trace then how safe are we the ordinary citizens,” many fear stricken Ugandans have asked themselves.

“Are these cameras scarecrows or devices installed for capturing petty thieves and not the hardcore criminals?” many have asked.

UGANDA: Between 2012 to date, dozens of high profile Ugandans were gunned down, sending the country into a wave of shock. The latest was the Monday, May 31, 2021when unidentified gunmen attacked Uganda’s Four- Star General, Edward Katumba Wamala, an incident that left his daughter and driver dead.

Eye witnesses say the four assailants riding two motorcycles trailed General Katumba from his home in Kampala for about four kilometers and spayed his vehicle with 56 bullets at 9.00 am local time (about 3.00 GMT), a blind spot, at Kisaasi suburb of Kampala.

The previous notable murders include; Sheikh Abdul Karim Ssentamu, a prominent Muslim Scholar who was gunned down on April 20th, 2012 along William Street in Kampala Capital (Assailants used motorcycles to flee the scene), Sheikh Mustafa Bahiga who was shot dead on December 28th, 2014 at a Mosque along Entebbe Road and Joan Kagezi, a Senior Principal State Attorney who was gunned down on March 30th, 2015 from a fruit stall (attacker rode motorcycles).

Others include a Senior Police Officer Andrew Felix Kaweesi, his bodyguard and driver who were gunned down on March 17th, 2017, Arua Municipality Member of Parliament Ibrahim Abiriga who was shot dead on June 8th, 2018 and Muhammed Kirumira, a Senior Police Officer and his female friend who were killed on September 8th, 2018, among others.

“If such people are shot in broad day life and the assailants disappear without any trace then how safe are we the ordinary citizens,” many fear stricken Ugandans have asked themselves.

The government came up an answer to that frequently asked question. In March 2017 following the shooting to the Assistant Inspector General of Police Felix Kaweesi, President Yoweri Museveni directed the Ministry of Finance to allocate funding for purchasing CCTV Cameras to help fight gun –related and other crimes.

Museveni’s directive fell on deaf ears not until Arua Municipality Member of Parliament Ibrahim Abiriga was gunned down in June, 2018. Parliament then approved a supplementary budget of 60 billion shillings (16.8m USD) for the first phase of installation of the cameras. Over 2,000 cameras were installed in the first phase. In the second phase, police say a total of 2,319 cameras will be installed. The Cameras are able to monitor a radius of 2 kilometers.

Uganda’s first CCTV camera project was installed on the routes used by dignitaries during the Commonwealth Heads of Governments’ meeting in 2007, police later expanded it to a few city suburbs. Meanwhile most home and business entities have the surveillance cameras installed. With surveillance camera coverage across the country, fighting gun –related crimes have remained hard to the security forces.

“Are these cameras scarecrows or devices installed for capturing petty thieves and not the hardcore criminals?” many have asked.
One of the residents of Kampala who declined to be named for fear of his life says the CCTV cameras are only effective on phone thieves but not the serial assassins who coordinate and execute their activities perfectly without getting caught. Another resident said the cameras installed work best when government is tracing opposition voters.

Nandala Mafabi, the Secretary General for Forum for Democratic Change –FDC Party wonders why the CCTV cameras are not helping police in capturing hardcore criminals despite the huge amount of money injected in its installations, “we were told every (panya) will have a surveillance camera, what happened? We spent 130 million USD. The cameras should work.”

Mafabi says Ugandans should rather seek God’s protection other than banking their hopes on securities, “if an army general cannot survive in its own, we should only ask God for protection. Katumba has partially died because he lost his daughter.” He said

Meanwhile Ofwono Opondo, the Government Spokesperson attributes that rampant gun –related violence in the country to illegal guns in the hands of the people, “in the country, someone can go to a friend and gets a gun. Unauthorized guns should be withdrawn.”

In a swift action to comfort Uganda following the attempt made on Katumba’s life, police officers who were manning the CCTV control room at Nateete when the incident was happening were arrested. Police say the officers will be interrogated to find out whether there was negligence at the time the incident happened since they were supposed to be watching live whatever was happening on the ground.

President Museveni however blamed the recent shooting of Katumba Wamala to the poor organization of the police and that the cameras put in place did their work by capturing the killers running from one area to another, “why did the camera center alert all the patrol cars and even the UAVs to chase and block these killers?”

Museveni says the officers on the command centers think that their gadgets are only for storing videos for forensic analysis as part of the post –mortem of the operation, “yes, the cameras are for forensic but also for alarm while the crime is going on.”

He then directed the police to stop suing phones and go back to radios that are open to all stations so that they act promptly in emergencies like the one of Katumba and that in addition to the cameras, the security leaders are working on installing digital monitors on all vehicles, boda –boda motorcycles, and all boast in the lakes, “they have taken long to implement this plan. This will make it easy to know which motorist was at this point this time.

The government however has a lot to do to prove that the CCTV cameras are not simply scarecrows but devices meant to fight crimes across the country.

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