Abiriga's Death and the 20-year ADF Question

3111 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
Just a day before the 1998 Heroes Day event, on the night of June 8, suspected ADF rebels had attacked Kicwamba Technical College in Kabarole District and burnt at least 80 students. Hundreds others were kidnapped and taken alive, with majority dying in rebel captivity in the Rwenzori Mountains.

President Yoweri Museveni today appeared to blame the Allied Democratic Front (ADF) rebels for the killing of Arua Municipality Member of Parliament, Col. Ibrahim Abiriga.
 
While speaking at the Heroes' Day celebrations in Kakumiro district, President Museveni said whereas ADF rebels were defeated in rural areas, they were still operating in Kampala and killing people.
  
"I know ADF can't come to the villages. They are in the city, killing people but we are going to deal with them," he told the gathering which included Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed Ali, who was decorated with the Most Excellent Order of the Pearl of Africa-The Grand Master.
 
Unknown assailants said to have been travelling on two motorcycles gunned Abiriga down a few metres from his home in Kirinnyabigo, Kawanda Wakiso District. He was 62.
 
The Friday evening attack also claimed the life of Abiriga's young brother, Saidi Butele, who was working as the flamboyant legislator's bodyguard. The two were travelling in Abiriga's vehicle, a Volkswagen Beetle registration number UBB 107D when they were attacked.
 
 ADF Link
 
Hours after the shooting, President Museveni released a brief statement on his official Twitter [email protected] the killing as senseless. The president ordered security agencies to find the killers.
 
 "I have received news about the senseless killing of Arua Municipality MP, Hon Ibrahim Abiriga, and his bodyguard on the city's outskirts. I have tasked security agencies to expeditiously find these killers and the nation will be updated soon. May Hon Abiriga's soul rest in peace."
 
Museveni briefly visited the deceased's home in Kawanda today morning before he headed out to Kakumiro District for the Heroes Day celebrations at the Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Parish grounds in Birembo Sub County.
 
Museveni vowed that "the killers of innocent people shall pay with their blood."
 
Twenty Years, Similar problem, Same message
 
President Museveni's message today bears striking similarities with the one he delivered on Tuesday, May 9, 1998, during that year's Heroes' Day celebrations. They both have ADF at the centre of a national security question.
  
Just a day before the 1998 Heroes' Day event, on the night of June 8, suspected ADF rebels had attacked Kicwamba Technical College in Kabarole District and burnt at least 80 students. Hundreds of others were kidnapped and taken alive, with the majority dying in rebel captivity in the Rwenzori Mountains.
 
Exactly 20 years later, as the country was preparing for the 2018 Heroes' Day event, MP Ibrahim Abiriga was gunned down.
 
In 1998, the ADF war was almost two years old, having started in October 1996 with the attack on Mpondwe border post in Kasese District. In his Heroes' Day speech, Museveni warned the rebel force and its leader, Jamil Mukulu, to either surrender or get crushed by the national army, the Uganda People's Defence Forces--UPDF.
 
It is the same message he delivered on Wednesday during the State of the Nation address: "The ADF criminals in the Congo will answer for the killings of our people. The only safety for them is to surrender and seek amnesty."
 
This same message was repeated at the Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Parish grounds in Birembo, Kakumiro District today.
 
 Shortly after the State of the Nation speech, Abiriga was all praises of the president for putting in place sound security measures: "President Museveni has put in place every security strategy down to the village level…We are going to attack them (criminals)...no room for resting."
 
Two days later, Abiriga was no more.
 
Similar Killings, No answers
 
On Wednesday, the president made reference to other killings such as those of senior prosecutor Joan Kagezi in March 2015, Major Muhammad Kiggundu in November 2016, Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi in March 2017 and several Muslim Sheikhs who have in the last five years been gunned down in a similar manner.
 
Almost all the killings have involved people moving on motorcycles, trailing their victims and disappearing without a trace after the shooting. And most of the attacks have been carried out either early in the morning as in the cases of AIGP Kaweesi and Major Kiggundu or in the evenings as in the case of Kagezi and Abiriga.
 
 ADF defeated?
 
 In early April 2001, more than four years after the ADF attack on Uganda, President Museveni addressed the media saying the country's security situation was under control and that both the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) and ADF had been very much weakened.
  
Museveni said that the ADF rebels responsible for planting bombs in Kampala city had been arrested and that the rest were known
  
"The ADF is defeated. These incidents you see are no longer the same threat as you used to know. We know exactly what is remaining in ADF, very few people. Many of their leaders have surrendered. Others have been killed. The ones who have remained, we shall get," Museveni was quoted in the local newspapers as saying.
 
He announced plans to pull the UPDF out of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where Uganda had deployed in the mid-1990s.
 
At its peak in the late 1990s, ADF was blamed for grenade attacks in bars and taxi parks in Kampala and other attacks on civilians in western Uganda districts of Kasese, Kabarole, Kamwenge, Bundibugyo and parts of Kibaale.
 
In 2002, during the celebrations to mark 16 years of the National Resistance Movement/Army (NRM/A) victory, there was a display of UPDF arsenal in Kasese district with the government saying the event also marked the defeat of ADF rebels.
 
Mukulu in the dock
 
 Decades later, however, the Uganda government continues to cite ADF in the targeted killings in and around the country, including that of MP Ibrahim Abiriga and his brother on Friday evening.
 
 Jamil Mukulu, a former Salafist Tabliq Muslim cleric who was believed to be the leader of ADF, is now facing trial in Kampala on several counts of murder, terrorism and attempted murder among others.
 
But the security question still stands. The killings continue, even as the president tries to convince the country that security of person and property is guaranteed.

 

About the author

Wilson Akiiki Kaija
Wilson Akiiki Kaija is is a URN editor and media trainer with 12 years’ experience as a journalist, and producer. He joined URN in April 2011 as a News Editor, before moving on to head the Training Department towards the end of 2014. He is in charge of coordinating URN’s internship and mid-career training programmes.


He has previously worked as a Senior Journalism Trainer for the BBC Media Action where he coordinated training and mentoring programme in Uganda. Between 2004 and 2007, Wilson managed and directed programming at Kyoga Veritas Radio, a community radio station based in Soroti, Uganda.