About two hours after the Tuesday twin bombings in Kampala that claimed the lives of seven people including three suicide bombers and injured 37 others, the police blamed the attacks on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels, who operate from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Police spokesperson, Fred Enanga told the anxious nation that their preliminary investigations showed that the bombings had all the hallmarks of ADF.
“These attacks come 22 days after the last suicide bomb attack on a Swift Safaris bus. It clearly shows that the ADF-linked radicalized groups, still have a desire to carry out lethal attacks, on soft targets, with suicide attackers and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). These kinds of threats remain significant because IEDs and suicide bomb jackets can easily be built from common household items found in local markets, retail shops, and supermarkets. Many businesses unconsciously sell these items, that are used to sell bombs, which calls for extra vigilance,” Enanga said.
About six hours after Enanga’s statement, the commander-in-chief President Yoweri Museveni also made similar claims in a 3-page statement. Museveni even went ahead to reveal the names of the alleged suicide bombers. He named Mansoor Uthman as the detonator of the bomb at the Central Police Station (CPS) Kampala.
For the Parliamentary Avenue bombing, although the police said it involved two suicide bombers disguised as boda boda riders, Museveni’s statement only talked about one called Wanjusi Abdallah.
The president revealed that they had got the identities of the bombers from the would-be 4th suicide bomber Musa Mudasiri who was shot at Katooke, Nansana before he executed his mission. Mudasiri was to later die of the gunshot wounds he sustained while being pursued by security according to Museveni.
The Islamic State (IS), a global terror organization has claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attacks in a statement released by Amaq Agency, which is linked to the terror group. IS claimed that they were responsible for the bombings involving three suicide bombers namely Abdul Rahman and Abu Shahid who allegedly detonated the bomb at Parliamentary Avenue on motorcycles and Abu Sabur, who died in the CPS attack.
None of those names appear in the president’s statement. However, it could be that actually, these people were using pseudo names. The IS statement also makes no mention of whether ADF was part of the planning and whether the operation was entirely their handiwork.
It should be noted that in 2019, ADF pledged allegiance to the IS branch known as the Central Africa Province of the Islamic State. IS also claimed for last month's bombings in Komamboga and on a Swift Bus that claimed two lives and injured 3 others.
Reacting to Museveni's statement, Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze wondered how security was able to swiftly and positively identify the suicide bombers, and why if the state already had intelligence, they did not stop their actions beforehand.
Questioned about this by journalists at the Uganda Media Centre today, minister of ICT and National Guidance, Chris Baryomunsi said the state was able to identify the suicide bombers from the intelligence gathered from suspects and informers.
On social media, a section of commentators has also questioned the authenticity of the publicly released police CCTV footage purportedly showing the 3 suicide bombers moments before they detonated the bombs. Whereas police identify a male traveller with a big backpack as the suicide bomber who detonated the bomb at CPS at 10.03 am, a frame by frame analysis of the CCTV footage appears to show the blast going off with the man still walking. But could it be a case of the 'light travelling faster' physics principle?
Security minister Jim Muhwezi while appearing on UBC TV said it's even possible that alleged suicide bombers did not even detonate the bombs themselves but perhaps were made to carry bags/packages whose actual contents they were perhaps unaware of. According to Muhwezi, there's a possibility that someone was monitoring the movement of the bombers and remotely detonated the bombs.
The Ugandan government has previously blamed all terror attacks and assassinations of prominent people in the country in recent years on the ADF. However, ADF, whose supreme leader, Jamil Mukulu, has spent close to seven years in Luzira prison, has never claimed responsibility for any of the attacks attributed to them.
SOURCE OF TERROR
Speaking to URN, Joseph Kasule, a research fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR), whose PhD dissertation discussed ADF in great detail, said that much of what is attributed to the ADF is conjecture. Kasule said the problem with terrorism is that the government makes it almost treasonable to question the official narrative that it's the ADF rebels that is behind these attacks.
"ADF has been established as a terror group whether it is legitimate or not that is known. ADF has been sold to the Ugandan public and the global public and they have bought it. And if such and such a thing happened, maybe those guys are the ones responsible. It doesn't matter whether it is Jamil Mukulu who is in charge of it, it doesn't matter whether he's Christian or a devil worshipper or a sorcerer, ADF is now an established unit - whether in a real entity or non-real entity, it is now known, it is believable, it is public, it is in our face," said Kasule.
"So how does the public know how to establish the facts whether ADF is real or not. At the moment, we do not know because to venture into that, we're entering a domain that the state has already put barbed wire and a fence, saying you cannot enter this domain; claiming we're the ones responsible for the intelligence on which members are operating under this [ADF] group, we're the ones obtaining intelligence on what activities they are doing or not doing and lots of things," he added.
Kasule further says that it will be very hard to understand the real source of terrorism in countries like Uganda whose leaders have immensely benefitted from their alleged fight against terror. Kasule says ever since the global focus shifted away from good governance to the war on terrorism, regimes with democracy deficits have exploited the fear for terrorism to perpetuate their continued stay in power and justification to purchase highly guarded surveillance and lethal military equipment
"ADF is here to stay. That doesn't have anything to do with whether it is real or not. It doesn't matter anymore, the point is, have we sold a particular project that it uses an alibi to undertake particular interests? Whether it is interests to source for America's USAID-funded money for democratic deepening or CIA-funded money for intelligence gathering or American establishment money to fight terror - all these are projects and how can they be achieved in different ways?" asked Kasule.
"Now on the internal front when you have particular bombs moving around the city, it allows the state to establish a particular form of order and control. This question of terror can't be limited to a particular group that so and so is committing terror. No. We have to ask, whose terror? Because in limiting particular freedoms using a bomb excuse, the state is establishing a particular form of limitations on your freedoms and lots of other things. So the ADF is there whether as a real entity or a non-entity, it is used as a vehicle for particular interests that are within the region, that are global to the region within domestic politics, lots of them," he added.
Indeed, NBS TV news anchor Samson Kasumba who regularly engages in social media spats with opposition apologists and usually defends state actions, in a veiled tweet directed at opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) appeared to claim that the bombings will now instead endear Museveni's government to the international community rather than the opposition.
"Now that IS is here killing people and owning the mayhem I can tell you that the cooperation between this govt and foreign governments to defeat this terrorism is going to increase. Removing the dictator is now more complicated. Even getting an audience for it will be hard," he tweeted.
NUP has often called on the international community not to just look away from what they called Museveni's continued violations of human rights, especially against the opposition. NUP coined the hashtag #WeAreRemovingADictator which was referenced in Kasumba's tweet.
It is exactly one year today when the state violently reacted towards city protests following the arrest of NUP presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi who was on a campaign trail in Luuka district, eastern Uganda. By the state's own admission, 54 people were shot dead although the number of victims is thought to be higher.
American author Helen Epstein wrote in her book; Another Fine Mess: Uganda, America and The War on Terror that after the 9/11 al-Qaeda terror attack on New York that killed almost 3,000 people, then US president George W Bush launched the 'freedom agenda', a program he hoped would be critical in promoting democracy as an alternative to tyranny across the globe.
The 'freedom agenda' targeted those who had been in power for more than 15 years, a category Uganda President Museveni belonged to. And in the context of Uganda, democratization meant that Museveni would leave power in 2006 after his second term as per the constitution.
But Bush quickly found that he needed allies beyond NATO to win the anti-terror wars he had started in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thus, he started building a larger alliance, turning to the likes of Museveni. Museveni flew to Washington in June 2003 for talks with Bush. The US president was meeting a man who had already showed willingness to join the anti-terrorism coalition.
As Bush hunted for allies, he put brakes on implementing the 'freedom agenda.' In a recent interview, Epstein said given that Museveni had made a secret deal with Bush administration to send troops in Somalia (which happened in 2007 a year after the Uganda 2006 presidential election), he suddenly became an asset to the US.
"Museveni at that time had a secret side deal with the Bush administration to send in peacekeepers into Somalia. In fact, that was probably the main reason why the policy towards Uganda changed. Essentially once the Bush administration had secured Museveni's promise to supply peacekeeping troops in Somalia then the pressure to step down in favour of promoting democracy in the country would not be enforced." said Epstein.