In the wake of the gruesome murder of Assistant Inspector General of Police, afande Andrew Felix Kaweesi, his bodyguard and driver, Uganda has gone into a frenzy because of the heavy loss occasioned by the murder on the country and a focal security agency –the Uganda Police, the shocking manner in which the slain famous police spokesperson and his security detail met their death and most importantly, the innumerable questions surrounding script of the gruesome act of terror. A series of similar murders in recent years still remain conclusively unsolved because of similar questions.
Uganda like much of the developing world is slowly embracing modern technologies but much still remains to be desired in terms of technical capabilities. This has always created a need for modern surveillance technologies like CCTV cameras in public areas to facilitate the investigative work of security agencies. In the past surveillance systems have even been installed in some parts of the capital, Kampala, but these were only a handful.
The move to install them might even be written off as only but cosmetic given that the cameras were installed in preparation for the Commonwealth Heads of State Meeting of 2007. In the public’s eye, these cameras were installed as icing to the sugar –the new swathes of flowers and grass planted in the city only months to the international conference hence making the cameras nothing but gloss over a plainly beautiful capital city.
Without surveillance crime scenes, the country is left to feed on nothing but the word of the eye witnesses. Investigators are left clutching at this thin straw of evidence hoping it can provide a lead. The case is, if one is to be built, is heavily porous because it is heavily dependent on circumstantial evidence. This has brought back the debate on the dire need of CCTV to solve the surveillance puzzle.
Those mooting for CCTV cameras are hell-bent on the idea that surveillance footage will provide security agencies with black-and-white evidence to enable them piece together who is behind the growing pattern of murders. The impunity to occasion terror on the country in broad daylight as was the case with the shooting of afande Kaweesi would then not go without answers of at least, who exactly pulled the trigger. We would then not end up with vaguely inconspicuous composite images of prime suspects. We wouldn’t also have uncoordinated accounts of how the shooting happened. In the very least, we wouldn’t be approximating the time of shooting to “around 9:00 o’clock.” CCTV cameras would be all-knowing in spite of everything.
But let’s please be cynical, just this once, so that reality can sink. On the morning of afande Kaweesi’s shooting, there was no power in Kulambiro (I’m a resident of the area). Supply had been cut in the heavy downpour in the wee hours of the day, hours before the shooting occurred. Would our CCTV cameras have told us what happened on the fateful morning without power? Assuming the CCTV cameras were to be powered by solar energy, would they have stored enough energy to be powered at the time of shooting given that it wasn’t sunny the day before? Assuming there was no cut in power supply but the shooting took the trend seen in movies; the bad guys first shoot-out the CCTV cameras thereby cutting off surveillance and then proceed to execute their mission, would we have any answers from the CCTV footage? Lastly, assuming the CCTV cameras were not shot out but the racket of criminals extended as far deep into the security agencies to ensure the CCTV footage was reconstructed to deliberately erase the faces of the shooters or the whole shooting, where or who would we then turn to?
The last assumption is the most plausible. Evidence tampering remains one of the most common vices in the Uganda police and in so doing cripples the justice system. Whilst addressing mourners at the home of afande Kaweesi, in a televised speech, the President didn’t spare Ugandans the fact that there are rotten apples in the police. He particularly pointed out the murder case involving rally driver Ponsiano Lwakataka where there was evidence tampering and crooked investigations.
What I’m trying to say is, CCTV cameras are not the answer to our security risks as a country. So are the bullet proof vests or vehicles that have also been mooted as a solution. All those are might in fact be get-rich schemes for the powers that be, which are going to be involved in the procurement processes of such deals. Another cosmetic solution to this growing pattern of insecurity only but puts the country within inches of a ticking time bomb. Uganda doesn’t no need CCTV cameras. At least, not immediately. For starters security agencies should pressurize UMEME to ensure constant flow of supply of power. Power cuts are themselves a threat to security.