7/11 poses new security challenges

Immediately after the 7/11 attacks in Kampala, the Police called upon the general public to be aware of the terrorism threat and join all security agencies to fight and prevent its occurrence again. Ugandans were advised to start using access control measures where by people entering different facilities would be checked, including bags and cars, and identify strange and suspicious abandoned items. The police also gave toll free lines where people should report if they found anything suspicious.

The days following the attacks were busy for the security agents. People were calling and giving all kinds of reports ranging from abandoned plastic bags to suspicious looking cars. Security was always at the scenes and gave the public confidence that all the reported incidents would be responded to. Almost all the subsequent bomb scares turned out to be hoaxes.

Today, many city dwellers have now gotten used to the security checks at almost all settings in the city. It seems the measures that were thought to be temporary are now going to be part of our day-today lives. However, questions are sill raised as to how safe we are.

The bloody bombings at Kyaddondo rugby club in Lugogo and Ethiopian restaurant in Kabalagala which left over 80 people dead, caught the country’s security apparatus napping. Although security has been beefed up in most places where social gatherings take place like bars, discotheques and churches, the stigmatisation caused by the terrorists is still seated deep into the minds of many. People who, for example, used to go to the crowded taxi parks to board taxis home after work now prefer to wait on the roads for the commuter mini-buses, even though security has been stepped up at the parks.

Memories are rife with the late 90’s bombings which were perpetuated by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels. These same rebels have been pointed at as the ones that worked with the Al Shabaab terrorists to cause the havoc that brought a whole new dimension of terror to the country.

Kampala city authorities were quick to impose a curfew where by all bars were supposed to operated up to 10 pm, a directive that was never enforced and wholly ignored. Private security companies also introduced measures to match the new threat.

“We have always had these gadgets but many of our clients did not really know their importance. Now all our clients want our guards to have search-mirrors and walk through metal detectors which they were reluctant to use before,” the Operations Manager of Pinnacle Security Company Anzua Opio told KD.

He added that his guards have always worked with Police and other security agencies and that the cooperation is just going to be stepped up due to the new form of security threats.

There were fears that reprisal attacks would be carried out against the Somali community, but the only reported act of vengeance was done to an Eritrean national who was mistaken for a Somali. A group of people attempted to lynch him, only to be stopped by police.

On the other hand, the Chairman of the Somali community in Uganda came out on July 12 and advised his countrymen living as refugees in this country to change their ways and accept that they are refugees. Mr. Abdullrahi Shire, who condemned the 7/11 attacks in Kampala, also stated that his association is endeavoring to ensure that the Somali refugees live in harmony with Ugandans, register with the relevant bodies and comply with the laws of Uganda.

He applauded the Uganda government’s contribution to promoting peace in Somalia through AMISOM, and hoped it will bring peace to his country. Under the Ugandan Somalis Community, they appealed to the Transitional Federal

Government (TFG) in Somalia not only to fully support the AMISOM intervention, but also to bring peace to the war-ravaged Horn of Africa.

By Edward Ronald Sekyewa