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Schedule 2 of the Anti-terrorism law as is, is a weakness.

Published 1 year ago -


When the twin bomb blasts tore through Kampala that July night in 2010 at Kyadondo and Ethiopian village restaurants Uganda was brought to its knees. Terrorists had struck right at the center of the Kampala, during one if the most watched football games of the season. At the time, Ugandans wondered about their safety. Uganda had in the past been savaged by terrorist groups like the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Democratic Allied Forces (ADF) in the outlying parts of the country, however, never in the capital. 74 lives were lost and scores injured in the attack claimed by the Al-shabaab that is deeply rooted in Somalia and has close ties with Al Qaeda. In the wake of the attack, security and law operatives vowed that the perpetrators of the crime would pay and justice for those affected got, to date, they are yet to see that happen.

Seven years down the road, the case has not been concluded and only recently, the court acquitted the suspects of the charge of belonging to the Al-shabaab group as it was not listed among terrorist organizations in schedule II of the Anti- terrorism law at the time. This is because only four[1] terrorist organizations were listed in the Act, Al-shabab not being one. We all have a little knowledge pertaining to Al-shabab, they claimed the attacks and they are deeply rooted in Somalia. This begs the questions, if a terrorist organization is not listed in our laws but commits atrocities on Ugandan soil, will the justice system turn a blind eye to its existence? Also, if the terrorist suspects were only being charged on the account that they belong to the Al-shabab group, would they go scot free?

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The law has been amended twice, and in existence is the Anti-terrorism (Amendment) Act, 2015 and the Anti-terrorism (Amendment) Act, 2016, one of the key reasons for amendment was the need to tackle terrorist financing lest we are blocked by the Financial Intelligence Authority. Also, three other terrorist groups[2], were added in the amendments of the Second Schedule of the 2002 Act, however, it confines terrorist organizations to the now, seven cited in our laws. In my humble opinion, it only paves way for history to repeat itself, given the rate at which new terrorist organizations keep cropping up. In 2002, we did not know Al-shabaab would rain terror on us eight years later and yet it did. Parliament ought to have created a window albeit cautiously, providing for incidences where organizations cropping up can be brought to book in accordance with our laws, the mere existence of schedule as it is a weakness. Caution is important so that the provision does not curtail individuals or groups considered ‘Political opponents’ as was feared by the Leader of opposition, Wafula Oguttu during the 2015 amendments of the law. But also, terrorism has grown and become more sophisticated over time it cannot just be tackled with half-baked laws.

Terrorism is an imminent threat, not only in Uganda but worldwide, with some brewing in our very own backyards and we just cannot afford to let it run wild. Contrary to the usual practice where international pressure causes us make certain decisions, we ought to be vigilant and make comprehensive decisions on our own with the international community chipping in only where we have failed. Such a scenario was evidenced during the Anti-terrorism amendments which were expedited pending the possibility of being blacklisted by the Financial Intelligence Authority. Also as much as we are living in a global village, we should not be oblivious of the fact that some of our problems are tailored to Uganda and Africa for example Al-shabab is more likely to wreak havoc here as opposed to Al Qaeda. In light of this, solutions ought to be formulated to fit the problem, copying and pasting laws that worked for a different model can be detrimental in the long run.

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[1] 1. The Lords’ Resistance Army. 2. The Lords’ Resistance Movement. 3. Allied Democratic Forces. 4. Al-queda.

[2] Al-shabaab, Boko Haram and Islamic Maghreb

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