Lawyer Fred Muwema

By Fred Muwema

Our security will remain in a state of deliquescence if we don’t correct serious design defects which rely on the gun and not the rule of law to guarantee security.

To many people ,the term ‘Rule of law’ remains in the stable of legal jargons which neither puts food on the table nor delivers the security dividend .The reality is that the Rule of law is the foremost renewable public resource that preserves the peace and to which all public and private authority and power must yield.
The gun may be the most recognizable trade dress of public authority and power but it must depend on the rule of law to keep the peace .The rule of law is the foundation of the modern state without which neither the state or the citizens can co-exist or function properly .It is the rule of law which makes every person ,institution ,entity including the state itself ,accountable to the law.

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So when an assailant guns down an innocent person and the states ability to protect the life and property is challenged, both the assailants and the state must still be held accountable to the law and nothing else. This is what it means to uphold the rule of law.
In the wake of the increased gun related murders in the country, many in the leadership have tended to be more accountable to the gun and not the law. At almost 4000 men , the strength of the Very Important Persons Protection Unit (VIPPU) has grown by more than 100 per cent from the numbers of five years ago, all with the intention of providing more security to important dignitaries .This is a non-proprietary and symptomatic management of the problem in my view because it does not address the underlying cause of the insecurity which is not the gun but its control.

Having more or less guns is not the issue; it is how the gun is used or misused which is the issue. The gun is a tool which is widely used to protect the peace but it is the same medium used to breach the peace .If the gun is being used to breach the peace ,the solution may not lie in bringing out more guns but rather in improving their control and regulation .

As a country, we don’t even know how many guns we have in private hands, lawfully or unlawfully. A report by the Monitor Newspaper of December 18, 2016 estimated that there were 19,000 guns in private hands in Uganda. The government is yet to provide an official record. Without a proper system of gun control of the existing unknown stocks, we cannot be thinking of releasing more guns into the public to stop the rampant gun related murders.

A survey conducted for the Uganda National Policy on fire arms ,ammunitions and incidental matters in 2010 found that the current legal regime on small arms and light weapons control under the Fire Arms Act 1970 and amendment of 2006, was largely ineffective and it did not conform to legal standards .For example ,it was found that there were insufficient procedures and systems for keeping records of fire arms including in relation to their licensing ,possession (by civilians and the state).It was also found that there was loss and theft of fire arms from official stock piles, due to inadequate procedures, facilities and over sight mechanisms to safely and effectively manage state owned stocks. The above policy has remained a museum piece because parliament has failed to pass the Small Arms and light weapons control bill for the last eight years so as to rectify the evident weaknesses in our gun control system.

There was no mention of the need to pass this bill when Parliament held a special session in honour of the late Hon. Ibrahim Abiriga (RIP) who was recently assassinated by gun trotting assailants and there is no indication that this important bill will make it to Parliaments Order paper any time soon . Whereas the law alone is not a magic wand d that automatically eliminates gun murders, it at least mitigates the situation by providing more regulation and control of guns. If we had more effective laws on gun control, fewer lives would have been lost to gun murderers.

As government prepares to upgrade the security infrastructure through acquisition of more sophiscated guns and surveillance gadgets to monitor crime ,it must remember that these guns and gadgets alone ,cannot guarantee security .The real guarantor of our individual and collective security is the rule of law .if we undermine the national institutions which are supposed to safe guard the rule of law ,we also undermine our own security .

Fred Muwema
Managing Partner
Muwema & Co. Advocates