Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Are terrorists holding the country hostage
Panic and anxiety has gripped the media fraternity last week following damning acts of terrorism targeting journalists and their operations. First was the well calculated arson attack on the premises of a Kampala tabloid Red Pepper by gunmen captured on CCTV.

The sophistication and confidence with which they conducted their attack in a city with very elaborate security checks should have everyone worried about our lives and what the future holds for the country.

As if that was not bad enough, Mr Sebidde Kiryowa, a journalist working with The New Vision was abducted by four men wielding AK-47 assault rifles at the gate of Sheraton Hotel in the city centre. Mind you, Sheraton is just a stonethrow away from the second home of the president.

Mr Kiryowa’s attackers were riding in similar vehicles like those used by the terrorists who raided the Red Pepper premises. We should now ask the tough questions; is terrorism back on our streets? Are the perpetrators of this terrorism targeting individual journalists and the independent media generally? Are these armed squads, which seem well coordinated and facilitated, working for the mighty and powerful in government to solve personal scores?

Or is this part of the government’s promise to sort out and cramp down on ‘errant’ media and practitioners perceived to be critical of the wrongs of government ? Are we seeing the emergency of militias with a mission to instill fear in the public and effectively curtail the liberties enshrined in our constitution? Should the country take this path at this critical stage of our democracy?

These are very pertinent and legitimate questions which should be answered by both government and the civil society. The managers at the Red Pepper have called upon those in charge of national security to explain the latest wave of armed attacks on the media and unarmed journalists. They deserve answers.

The New Vision Editor in -Chief Els de Temmerman supported by the Uganda Newspapers Editors and Proprietors Association ,(UNEPA) has come out strongly to condemn the abduction, intimidation, torture of journalist(s) and economic sabotage as a grave infringement on freedom of the press.

Temmerman has promised to take the matter to the highest authorities. Hope she does. On the other hand Gen. Aronda Nyakairima , the UPDF chief, deserves a pat on the back for being the only senior national security official to state that no UPDF soldier in active service can carry out terrorist acts against unarmed citizen(s).

President Museveni has also remained firm in his opposition to assassinations whether politically, economically or socially motivated. He is also against the use of fire arms to carry out economic sabotage- we respect him for that.

This column is on record for its support for the death penalty especially for convicted murderers and men who defile children/babies. Similarly, President Museveni’s view that armed terrorists who attack and harass civilians should be prosecuted under the UPDF and Terrorism laws, should garner the support of all peace loving Ugandans.

Of course this is not to say that suspects brought under the operations of the two laws should not face fair trial. The due processes of the law must be respected and followed- but once convicted for terrorism such terrorist(s) must suffer the death penalty.

This country has bled enough. Gone are the days when civilians were picked up on streets by rogue elements in broad daylight and never to be seen again. Daily Monitor is currently running series of the hallowing tales of people who lost their beloved ones in incidents akin to that of the attack on Red Pepper and kidnap of The New Vision journalist.

The goons who attacked Red Pepper and kidnapped Kiryowa committed terrorism and should face the full force of the law. No Ugandan should allow this nation we love so much to slip back to the dark days.

The writer is a journalist/ lawyer

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