Uganda is enjoying a comparatively comfortable position under the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic.
All this would not have been possible without the vigilance of security personnel deployed under the various security organs. Ever since the Coronavirus clouds formed over Uganda, a raft of guidelines and directives from the top have been issued to aid in fighting off the outbreak. In particular, the imposition of the quarantine and subsequently, night curfew, all over the country would have been hollow and unenforceable if there was no security cover to enforce them.
This is why our gallant sons and daughters in uniform-police, UPDF, prisons, etc- should be accorded special appreciation, respect, and support to do their job at this time if never before. Security personnel, besides medics and the political leadership which gives periodic guidance to the nation, are the wall between the virus and the masses. If it was possible to experiment, security personnel would be withdrawn from their posts for a day. The outcome would be totally devastating.
In times of crisis, security is the function to fall back on. They bear the brunt of all kinds of pressure and tests which others run away from.
So, let us take some time and appreciate these frontline fighters for literally placing their lives on the line for the sake of everyone else. Good enough, Uganda’s security is manned by a motivated, professional, and patriotic officer who understands their vocation and mission. They don’t just take orders without understanding their individual responsibility.
They never sleep, they never take shelter from the sun or rain; they trek through the night to lock down the curfew and spend day time enforcing the quarantine. Not only that; their regular duties of fighting crime, maintain law and order, securing people’s life and property have not ceased to demand their attention. In a time of crisis as it is under the weight of Covid-18 unscrupulous elements can get desperate or hyperactive and try to exploit the absence of people in many spaces and use that chance to engage in criminal activities like house break-ins and robberies.
The government is distributing relief food to the vulnerable in various places. The exercise would not be possible without the presence of security at the collection and storage centers and, later, at the distribution points.
I have been made to understand that the UPDF has established a Covid-19 center at its Bombo base to assist in attending to cases. Now, this is the height of specialization of our forces. They do not only use the gun but are also skilled and diverse in their operations to engage in handling medical emergencies. And being UPDF, with its record of efficiency and professionalism, I bet that the center will be the next big thing, not only in treating Covid-19 but other medical conditions. The army should not hesitate to put its equipment on and heading to the hotspots to take the enemy on. As stated at the beginning, Uganda is doing relatively well on the anti-Covid-19 front. The aim should be to maintain that status and go on to assist other countries in need of back up the way we sent doctors to West Africa to support efforts against Ebola.
With UPDF, we cannot forget to reference peace support operations-past and present- in various countries as a bonus to effectively securing the whole of Uganda against acts of terror and rebellion. Every operation they have been involved in has built capacity to handle subsequent ones including those against “unseen” enemies.
For the intelligence organs, their behind-the-scenes work is what guides the overt operations of uniformed personnel and sometimes the technical teams. CMI, ISO, ESO, and crime intelligence unit of police are all involved in gathering vital material to inform decision-making-and implementation.
For cases where security personnel has been caught acting ultra vires to their orders, those are individual cases that have been appropriately handled, including the errant LDUs who, out of apparent excitement, misinterpreted their orders and acted too hard on wanainchi; the so-called “pigs”, according to President Yoweri Museveni whose orders they were supposed to implement. The few bad ones do not represent the goals and purpose of the entire establishment.
However, civilians should not make the work of security difficult by defying lawful directives and provoking confrontations with enforcers. It’s a bad idea to do so because, among other difficulties that could arise, a state of emergency could be slapped on all of us, and in that state, a cop or soldier has unlimited powers to use whatever means of coercion are in his or her possession. We don’t need to bargain for that to happen. Whatever these officers are doing is for the good of the population. The case of a soldier who lost an eye after being attacked in the course of enforcing the curfew in Amuru should be the last and that soldier should be compensated and the perpetrators brought to book as an example to others putting the Coronavirus operation in jeopardy.
The author is a Presidential Assistant in Charge of Media Management