By Fred Muwema
Just when Angelo was penning his response to my article on fakes and kidnaps where he tried to discount the menace of counterfeits, the Government of Uganda was declaring three days of mourning due to a nasty road carnage caused by fake brakes that left 22 dead in Kiryandongo District.
I say fake brakes because I watched with dismay on TV when one of the lucky survivors lying in pain on a hospital bed narrated that the driver of the bus had tried to stop the bus but the brakes failed. A 2016 report by the Ministry of Transport indicated that 95 per cent of road accidents are caused by human error and mechanical condition of the vehicles. This is where counterfeits in the form of fake driving permits and fake vehicle parts lurk. This is the savage image of counterfeits that most people choose not to see.
Angelo’s views may appeal to many people who pay scarce attention to the immense devastation that counterfeits are causing to whole communities and economies in Africa and to those who may not understand it as a causative factor of heinous crime. As a person who has endured a 10 year knowledge sojourn traversing the counterfeit wilderness here and in other countries with a hand luggage of more than 20 years in criminal law practice, I know better than to join Angelo in finding a false equivalence between counterfeits and the tragedy of kidnaps.
The relatives of the victims of the bus carnage are in as much grief and pain as the relatives of the victims of the kidnaps so much so that they are all inconsolable, not because the deaths are different, but because they amount to the same thing. It may not be easy to explain the equivalence of two complex subjects in a few lines and I don’t claim to do so now, but let me give some hints.
In a May 23, 2018 NTV interview, the Minister of Security Gen. Elly Tumwine made a statement linking the recent increase of kidnap cases in Uganda to terrorist activity. It is possible many people dismissed the Minister’s talk because he did not elaborate. Those who know will tell you that worldwide, counterfeiting business is a major source of terrorist funding. Kidnaps are an active ingredient of terrorism, and therefore, it is not false to juxtapose counterfeiting with kidnapping.
It would have been nice for the Uganda Police to fully investigate this nexus between counterfeit and kidnaps but alas, only two per cent of the 4000 murder cases (many a result of kidnap) have been investigated and successfully prosecuted in the last four years. This neglect of duty by the Police is also counterfeit behavior which we have come to accept as normal.
In my article titled “Counterfeits, a Security Threat” which was published six years ago in the New vision of May 23, 2012 at page 10, I quoted a report by the international Anti – counterfeiting Coalition which stated that drug traffickers, money launderers and terrorists find it safer now days to raise and clean their money through counterfeit businesses because this business is easy to set up without the risk of suffering harsh punishment under drug trafficking or money laundering laws. I still identify with this view and maintain that fighting fakes will help in the fight against the kidnaps.
Like they say, what you do not know does not hurt you. Most Ugandans do not know much about counterfeits in terms of its dangerous effects that is why they may not think of it to be as dangerous as the kidnaps we all dread. We are losing the war against counterfeits and paying the price with our lives because we tend to trivialize the issue.
When I was growing up, there was no children’s section at the Cancer Institute in Mulago. Today the Children’s section is as big as the section for adults and behold the sight of little children fighting for their lives can move even the most hardened soul to tears. But amidst all this, we are not alarmed by recent media reports that some criminals are importing and selling fake cancer drugs on the market neither are we outraged by the fake Hepatitis B vaccine which is now incubating in the bodies of millions of Ugandans.
Business continues as usual and we continue to choke on the fake medicines and yet we remain unaware of our conspiracy in the grave consequences like death, which may greet us as a result. I admit that it may not be fair to compare the mortalities caused by fake drugs to those of kidnaps since they all represent a tragic loss of human life. No death can be sanitized because its cause is more popular than the other and for me I think that it is worse when we try to reduce this issue to an academic exercise.
Angelo appeared to be slighted by my use of statistics of kidnaps and those of fake products when he accused me of “atomizing the victims of crime as statistics for reference.” I don’t know how anyone can get a correct equivalence between any two fields of study without comparing their statistics. What I know is that it is statistics which breathe life into what we call facts on any subject.
Angelo made an impassioned reference to his coverage of the LRA insurgency as a Journalist but I think he needed statistics to put this disaster in its true context. It is the statistics of the 60,000 to 100,000 children who were abducted by the LRA in four African countries between 1987 – 2012 that raised World outrage leading to the indictment of Dominic Ongwen in the ICC for the massacres and kidnappings.
We need to face the reality sooner rather than later. Counterfeits may not sound as fashionable as kidnaps but that is just semantics. They are both killing us, we need to stand up and stop them.
Director Legal & Corporate Affairs
Anti-Counterfeit Network Africa
28th May, 2018