A historical perspective of the dynamics of terrorism in Uganda, 1976 -2015
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This study historicises the” terrorism” debate in Uganda between 1976 – 2015. It aims at rethinking the evolution of the meaning of the concept “terrorism”, its manifestations, causes and the state’s responses to it through the lenses of the alternative explanations provided by the Critical Terrorism Theory (CTT). CTT helps one to understand “terrorism” better beyond the predominant understanding by The Orthodox Terrorism Theory (OTT). It presents a critical and discourse analysis approach to understanding and explaining the historical usage of the concept of “terrorism”. To analyse this comprehensive framework for understanding “terrorism”, the study examines the 1976 Entebbe Incident, 1996 Atiak Massacres, 1996-1999 bombings, 1998 Kichwamba Massacre, and the 2010 Kampala bombings and discusses how state and non-state terrorism can be re-examined through the application of the CTT. The study employed a historical research design and qualitative approach and triangulation of qualitative inter-disciplinary information or data collection methods (archival, documentary review, historical linguistics, interviews and site visits) and qualitative descriptive method of data analysis. The central argument is that from 1976, Uganda found itself entangled in the arena of international terrorism. The study places geo-security in a comprehensive historical frame and demonstrates that “terrorism” is a changing and subjective concept that is tied to state-centred conceptions of state security and political narratives. As a global issue, “terrorism” spilt over to the local public life in Uganda in the first decade of the 21st century. Its usage and meanings have been beyond the political-legal global usage of the term as a threat to national and global security. Terrorism evolved, became localised and part of day-to-day public life by 2015. Besides the use of the concept in search of identity and power, it has been freely used in the public discourse to demonstrate courage, determination, toughness, and roughness. Thus, the conceptualisation of terrorism is beyond the limits of the two theories. The study established that Uganda has experienced three types of terrorism: state terrorism, non-state terrorism and international terrorism. In Uganda, these types of “terrorism” have manifested in varied and nuanced ways ranging from the use of arson, disappearances, hostage-taking, kidnapping and abductions, bombing, Improvised Explosive Devices (IED), Mobile phones and lone wars. These types have been attributed primarily to Uganda’s interventionist foreign policy, geopolitics, and the impact of globalisation; the Middle East Question, the influence of the Iranian Revolution, and American power dominance following the Cold War. The study further established the structural factors to be the underlying causes of “terrorism” because of Uganda’s porous borders and the fluidity of political and security systems in Uganda over the years. On countering “terrorism”, the study demonstrates that Uganda's Counter-Terrorism (CT) measures have been in tandem with the changing manifestations of “terrorism”. Uganda, therefore, remains vulnerable to terrorism primarily because of its interventionist foreign policy, and intrastate structural factors such as lack of preclusive security, and the dynamic nature of “terrorism” itself. Mitigating terrorism, therefore, requires a multifaceted approach ranging from addressing underlying structural causes and checking the country’s interventionist foreign policy given the ever-changing manifestations of “terrorism”.