On Wednesday, the Mukono Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Mr Fred Bamwine, ordered security personnel in the district to shoot cattle thieves on sight in order to curb theft of animals and food, which has been reportedly on the rise in the district.
Mr Bamwine, who was presiding over the distribution of heifers under the Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) Programme, argued that he has no sympathy for thieves and that whoever would be found stealing will “have to be shot dead”.
Whereas we sympathise with residents of Mukono who have been suffering at the hands of the thieves, and whereas we just might appreciate the frustration that Mr Bamwine might be feeling presiding over the district’s security committee at a time when the thieves are proving a mouthful for the security agencies there, we do not agree with his directive to the security agencies.
It is inconceivable that he does not seem to realise that the order will translate into extrajudicial killings. If this happens, Mr Bamwine should be held personally responsible. He should face the law along with those who pull the trigger in the name of implementing his infamous directive.
It is a serious error in judgment on his part to imagine that one can use a crime to wipe out another crime. That approach has been tried before, but has never worked.
In the 1950s prior to his ascent to the throne of Obwa Kyabazinga bwa Busoga, Sir William Wilberforce Nadiope, encouraged mob action against suspected thieves in Bugabula County. Thieves were lynched, their property destroyed and their dependents banished. The operations codenamed Emizindula
did not help to wipe out theft. They, if anything, resulted in the death of many innocent people, loss of property and displacement of families.
Former president Idi Amin, who gave “frequent loss of life and property arising from almost daily cases of robbery with violence and kondoism (thuggery) without strong measures being taken to stop them,” as one of the 18 reasons for staging a coup against Milton Obote in January 1971, also encouraged mob action in the fight against kondoism, but like had been in Busoga, it resulted in the loss of innocent lives.
We dare say Mr Bamwine’s directive is doomed to fail and with similar consequences. However, rather than wait for a tragedy to occur in Mukono, we are calling on his bosses in the Office of the President to not only call him to order, but also compel him to rescind that order. RDCs should not be seen to be encouraging extrajudicial killings.