Terrorist attacks: Police devise new strategies
After the twin bombing at Kyadondo Rugby Club and Ethiopian Village Restaurant on July11, 2010 that left 78 people dead and scores injured, police chiefs convened in Entebbe to analyse the attack on the Ugandan football enthusiasts who were watching the World Cup final.
After threatening to deal with the officers mercilessly if another attack occurred, the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, who chaired the meeting, tasked each officer to give him their plan of securing the country.
“I am telling you that if terrorists attack Kampala again please don’t call me to tell me what has happened just remove your uniform and desert because if I get you it will be problems,” he told officers. Despite his warning, Mr Kayihura knew that his men needed capacity to measure up to the terror threats.
Change of lifestyle
The State response to counter terror attacks has impacted policing and the lifestyle of Ugandans. Barely can one enter any building without being checked. Police officers are more vigilant and seen carrying machine guns in many public places.
In 2010, the Directorate of Counter Terrorism (CT) was barely two years and had only 600 officers. A few of them had undergone specialised training in countering terror threats.
Mr David Wasswa, the head of CT technical services, said at the time they had only two departments; technical services and tactical response and neutralisation.
“If you were to measure then, they weren’t matching with the threats at hand,” Mr Wasswa said. CT was providing a supportive role to other security agencies. Gathering of intelligence, analysing it and enforcement were done by other security agencies such as Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Directorate and Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence.
“This was a big challenge. It created a lot of loopholes,” he said. To fill the gap, Mr John Ndungutse, was appointed deputy director of CT to establish an intelligence unit, which had to gather intelligence, specifically on terrorists, analyse it, verify and order for action.
With Mr Ndungutse in the CT, funds started flowing in though the amount is often kept secret for security reasons. More equipment including bomb disposal robots were bought. The US, UK, India, Israel and Turkey lent a hand in capacity building.
The US also provided direct support to the directorate through specialised training.
Mr John Ndungutse, Mr Herman Owomugisha and a several other officers were taken to the Federal Bureau of Investigations Academy in the US for training. In turn, the police created more departments under CT that would cover both the economic interests of the country and those of their donors.
Tourism industry at stake
Tourism industry being one of the big contributors to the national economy, any threats to its stability would cause an economic downward spiral. Uganda earned more than Shs2 trillion from tourism annually.
But it is a known fact that when Western countries issue an advisory about an imminent terror alert, their citizens listen. Kenya’s coastal areas are a no-go zone for western tourists.
Diplomatic missions in Uganda started issuing similar advisory and Uganda police quickly established the Tourism Police Unit to protect the industry.
Another unit VIPPU that protects foreign missions and very important persons was put under CT so was Aviation Police.
In just four years, the number of CT officers swell from 600 officers to 4,000.
“Because terrorism is so dynamic, you need frequent training in new tactics. We had to establish a school specifically to train our officers at Olilim in Katakwi District,” Mr Wasswa said.
The Counter-Terrorism directorate even bought robots to help them remove or trace bombs in buildings. Given the fact the suspected attackers were from Somalia and would organise from Kenya, Uganda Police Force sent its officers in both countries to gather intelligence.
“We were able to prevent an attack when we were celebrating 50 years of independence in 2012. When terrorists organised in Kenya, we gave intelligence to our counterparts in Nairobi and the suspects were arrested with explosives,” he said.
Few months after the attacks, police issued new regulations for those who wished to organise events anywhere in the country. Mr Edward Ssendikadiwa of West Records, a promotion company, said since the July 11 terror attacks, the cost of organising events has shot up.
“You have to write to the Inspector General of Police, then the Commander Kampala Metropolitan Police. In case the event is going to be held in Kampala, regional and division police commanders must be notified. You also have to get officers to man security. The event organiser has to get sniffer dogs and metallic detectors from Counter Terrorism Directorate. All this requires money,” Mr Ssendikadiwa explained.
Previously, an event organiser would only contact the division police commanders about the event. Some event organisers spend as much as Shs80m on security alone. Many event organisers get their funds from beverage companies that hope to sell their products at the function. In the business sense, the longer the events, the more of their products are consumed.
Events in open areas aren’t allowed to go beyond 1a.m. and revellers are expected to vacate the area. Event organisers would allow revellers to be entertained up to dusk to enable them go back home without being attacked.
Mr Ssendikadiwa said the security measures that followed the July 11 changed everything.
“Revellers must leave the event at 1a.m. which put them at the risk of being attacked by criminals along the way,” he said.
Even display of fireworks was banned except on national days. Government opposition too took a swipe after the attacks. Suspicion of terror attacks became reason to deny them from assembling.
Since the terror attacks, no one has ever been the same. Let it be those supposed to ensure that terrorists never succeed and those they protect from successes of terrorists.