Security threats that dominated 2022
The internal security situation in the country in 2022 was a matter of growing concern.
In previous years, rumours on the street had it that the government would stage apparent rebel attacks in order to tease out pockets of disaffection and then arrest whoever in the army or general public stepped out to join the rebellion.
The other explanation was that the security services, in a dishonest bid to lobby for a larger budget, would in the past create the impression of a deteriorating situation, thus justifying the increased funding.
This time, there seemed to be a genuine threat of insurgency.
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Following attacks in which assault rifles were seized and in several instances police officers were killed, the government closed thousands of provincial police posts across the country.
It is one thing to stage these attacks; it is another to reduce the presence of the police in the community.
Had this been a case of false flag operations by the security forces, there would have been an increase, not a decrease, in the police presence.
Closing the police posts was intended to deny the insurgents further access to weapons.
Lightly-guarded police posts
It was just this tactic that the National Resistance Army (NRA) insurgents employed against lightly-guarded police posts and police stations in 1981.
The army, in a surprise move, raided the home of the Luweero District National Resistance Movement (NRM) party chairman, Mr Abdul Nadduli, and the farm of another long-time NRM cadre, Maj Roland Kakooza Mutale.
If the reports of armed rebel activity were staged by the State, the most obvious targets for an army swoop would be two Opposition political parties, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), and the National Unity Platform (NUP), both of which are open about their goal of causing a change of regime.
Given that Nadduli and Mutale are core NRM supporters and are in their 70s, they seemed unlikely targets for military intelligence investigation.
Weeks after the raids, there was no official word by the army on what it had discovered at the two premises and no word about this having been an instance of erroneous intelligence, thus warranting a public apology.
In mid-December, the security cabinet also met to discuss the growing destruction of the electricity infrastructure, from high-voltage transmission lines to cables.
This cabinet response suggested that the government treated this as no ordinary vandalism.
Somehow, the vandals, if that’s who they were, were able to target these dangerous transmission lines during a rainy season without any of them accidentally getting electrocuted.
They appeared to know what they were doing and the audacity pointed, at the very least, to a sophisticated criminal gang or an armed insurgent group in its initial stage of sabotage.
All said, the internal security situation in the latter half of the year began to feel like 1981 all over again. It would not be surprising for an armed insurrection to have taken shape in 2022.
The sheer longevity of the NRM government’s hold on state power was a source of exasperation for many.
A large section of the population in the central part of the country remained convinced that the NUP had been robbed of victory in the January 2021 General Election.
The continued arrest and disappearance of NUP supporters and activists was bound to embitter the population even more, not to mention the rampant corruption and land-grabbing by officials within the government at a time of economic distress.
Over the past 50 years, Uganda like Chad, Burundi, Ethiopia, Republic of the Sudan, and other African countries has developed the culture of permanent insurgency.
At any one time in these countries, there is always an armed insurgency at work regardless of the government in power. It would not be surprising, therefore, that in 2022 this tradition of taking up arms to fight a sitting government would have continued in Uganda.
The external security situation was even more complicated and sensitive than the internal.
Most of this revolved around Uganda’s relations with neighbouring Rwanda.
For nearly three years from March 2019 to January 2022, Rwanda had closed its border with Uganda after accusing Uganda of supporting insurgents opposed to the RPF government in Kigali.
This was the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), an offshoot of the RPF.
In November 2021, bomb blasts in Kampala were blamed by the Uganda government on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). The ADF itself did not claim responsibility.
In an intriguing comment during his televised address to the nation on the bomb attacks, President Museveni that November said Ugandans would be “surprised” to one day discover who the ADF were.
He did not elaborate on this, which made it even more intriguing.
It is public knowledge that the ADF is an armed rebel formed in the 1990s, made up of mostly Muslim militants led by Jamil Mukulu, and intent on overthrowing the NRM government.
And yet, here was Museveni saying Ugandans would one day be surprised to learn who the ADF that attacked Kampala really were, clearly implying that whoever attacked Kampala in November 2021 was not the ADF with which we are familiar.
This means that the air force strike on the ADF camp in eastern Congo in 2022 in retaliation for the Kampala bomb attack did not target the ADF of Jamil Mukulu but rather the “ADF” that the President mentioned without elaborating.
Then in mid-2022, the media reported consistently that Ugandan Banyarwanda were being denied national identity cards and passports.
This was the most eye-opening development of the year.
Uganda has a large ethnic Banyarwanda population with full citizenship, thus entitled to passports and national IDs.
Why would the government suspend the issuance of identification and travel documents to Banyarwanda, considering the extreme sensitivity of anything to do with Banyarwanda?
A significant number of Banyarwanda are at the heart of the NRM state.
And how would Rwanda view this development, having re-opened the border?
As it was with the unlikely army raids on Nadduli and Mutale, denying Banyarwanda passports is eye-opening.
Ordinarily, the ethnic groups to deny passports and national identity cards would be those from Busoga and Buganda, since these two regions show the greatest support for the NUP, which is open about its refusal to recognise the NRM government.
If indeed the ADF as it is known was behind the Kampala bomb blasts, it would be more likely that Ugandan Muslims report being denied passports and IDs.
Instead, the ethnic group most often associated with the NRM government and one that tends to be overwhelmingly pro-NRM, is denied these important official documents.
Only one explanation
There can be only one explanation for this: Despite the re-opening of the border, tensions between Uganda and Rwanda have not gone away.
Rwanda itself is not being entirely forthright in its security concerns in Congo.
The former Hutu national army, the FDLR, was removed from power 28 years ago.
For Kigali to say the FLDR poses a great threat is like the NRM government saying in 2014 that its operations in South Sudan or Congo were to flush out the 1980s UNLA.
The more immediate threat to RPF Rwanda, going by recent tensions with Uganda, is likely to be the RNC and the military operations in Congo are in search of RNC camps.
In summary, then, behind the scenes in 2022 there appeared to be a quiet war between Uganda and Rwanda and at the heart of this cold war were the Banyarwanda Tutsi threat to both countries, real or perceived.