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Uganda: Attack nearly kills Katumba Wamala, are the motorbike murders back?

By The Africa Report
Posted on Monday, 21 June 2021 15:16, updated on Friday, 2 July 2021 15:32

Security forces and forensic experts secure the scene of an attempted assassination on Ugandan minister of works and transport General Katumba Wamala in the suburb of Kiasasi within Kampala
Security forces and forensic experts secure the scene of an attempted assassination on Ugandan minister of works and transport General Katumba Wamala in the suburb of Kiasasi within Kampala, Uganda June 1, 2021. REUTERS/Abubaker Lubowa

On 1 June, Katumba Wamala, a trusted ally and minister of President Museveni, survived an assassination attempt. Are we seeing the beginning of a new wave of political violence in Uganda?

The attack on Katumba wounded him but killed his daughter and driver. Although the perpetrators are not known, some suspects have been detained by police.

Law enforcement agents said one of the guns used was an AK-47 used in the 2016 murder of Mohammed Kiggundu, a former Islamist militiaman who had defected to the government.

Who is Katumba, and why an attempt on his life?

Katumba had been the most decorated Muganda military officer. He was head of the national police, and then chief of the defence forces, until 2017 when President Yoweri Museveni appointed him as works and transport minister.

There has been much speculation from social media for this particular attack, ranging from effort to deter any possible rivals to Museveni’s son Muhoozi Kainerugaba taking over the presidency after his father, to tensions spilling over among the country’s internal security organs and military.

In fact, rivalry among security agencies has long been encouraged, with disputes turning violent in the last year.

As minister, Katumba has also made some enemies, for example, after he fired the head of Uganda Airlines and the rest of the higher-level management due to allegations of corruption.

According to Africa Confidential: ‘The ‘political’ attribution of the attack’s motives is supported by the prevalence of similar shootings in recent years, all involving officials in sensitive positions.’

Motorbike murders

There is CCTV footage that shows four men on two motorbikes who allegedly follow Katumba from his home, then open fire. His is not the first case of a high-profile murder. Others who have been killed by attackers on motorcycles in recent years incluee:

  • March 2015: prosecutor Joan Kagezi;
  • March 2017: assistant inspector general of police Andrew Felix Kaweesi (alongside his bodyguard and driver);
  • June 2018: MP Ibrahim Abiriga;
  • September 2018: outspoken police officer Muhammad Kirumira.

Bottom line

Although no one has been prosecuted for these crimes, there is a clear pattern of murders by assailants on motorbikes. However, as the individuals have no particular similarities apart from being high-profile, the motivation for these attacks remain unclear.

A full version of this article can be found in Africa Confidential. 

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