Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni on Tuesday issued tough directives to the security and judicial authorities in the country, following the brutal murder of his nephew last week.
The tough-talking president said he wants courts to hand out eye-for-an-eye-style sentences for all murder convicts, and dismissed police officers that he accused of incompetence in the wake of soaring violent crime.
From killings to violent robberies and kidnappings for ransom, crime has been surging in recent years in the East African country, stoking widespread public anger.
We need to make this clear to the courts. It must be an eye-for-eye.
Ugandans complain that most crimes go unsolved because police are corrupt and not interested in investigating cases involving ordinary citizens, although security officials deny this.
Need for a tough judiciary
Museveni accused courts in the country of facilitating crime by handing out lenient sentences to hardened criminals.
“We need to work on the courts,” Museveni said in the statement posted on his official social media accounts late on Tuesday.
“They need to move quickly on the cases of murder…the punishments must also be severe, including the hanging of killers.”
The ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, he said, believed in a justice system that extracts ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’.
“We need to make this clear to the courts. It must be an eye-for-eye,” Museveni said. “Nothing less will be acceptable.”
Death is the maximum penalty in Uganda for a range of crimes including murder, treason and defilement, but executions are rare.
Sleeping police officers fired
The president, who has led the East African country since 1986, blamed last month’s death of an NGO worker and her driver partly on the negligence of police officers who, he said, had not acted swiftly to use a recently installed CCTV system on all Kampala roads to intercept their vehicle and rescue the victims.
“If those who are in uniform today cannot do their job, there are plenty who will replace them.”
Police who were negligent, he said, have been arrested and he has ordered that they be tried and dismissed.
Uganda’s crime problem
Museveni’s statement came after two recent murders figured extensively in Ugandan media.
Last Thursday, Museveni’s nephew was found lying on his back on the tarmac on an expressway near the capital, dead from gunshot wounds. His body was found near his parked vehicle, where a woman was in the back seat, also dead from gunshot wounds.
On Aug. 30, the bodies of a woman working for a local non-governmental organisation and her driver were found dumped in a swamp just east of the capital Kampala, two days after they were kidnapped in their own vehicle outside the gate of the woman’s home.
In recent years, religious clerics, civil servants and police officers including a popular member of parliament and a deputy police chief have been murdered in cold blood, with authorities struggling to stem the wave of violence.