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

By: Winnie Watera

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?

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.

[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