DON’T CALL ME GOON...
The people behind illegal arrests in Uganda need a better title?
Our Ugandan ancestors had a saying roughly corresponding to the English, “It’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it.” It was also said that the closest relative of the deceased is the one who handles the stinkiest part of the corpse.
But times have changed. Now we have modern public mortuaries and even if the corpse is discovered after weeks of decomposition, specialised personnel will handle and pack it properly in the coffin, for a hefty fee of course.
And now we even have funeral homes that not only handle the corpse but also make the whole process more elegant than a poor man’s wedding. And yes, they even have right of way on our traffic-jammed streets.
It is not only corpse handling that has gone modern. The arrest of people whom the courts of law think shouldn’t be arrested is also being reassigned to a new profession. They are not mortuary attendants but look as scary. They are popularly known as goons. Since the police are a law enforcement agency, they cannot be expected to conduct an illegal arrest, and they actually dissociate themselves from these shady things. But illegal arrests sometimes have to be carried out in the interest of national security, as defined by the state of the day. So some far-sighted young men and middle-aged men appear to have gone and studied goonery at some secret university and they provide their services when required.
The pay must be good for these goons. To do what the police and army are not willing to do cannot come cheap.
Now the practitioners of goonery need to do one thing urgently, and that is to get a more respectable name for their profession. It is not good to have the public referring to you as a goon when you are carrying out a highly specialised job. To be a so-called goon you must have undergone rigorous physical training in unarmed combat and you must carry a gun, which however you must avoid using. Your typical area of operation is court precincts, where everybody is expected to conduct themselves with decorum. So to conduct an illegal arrest in such circumstances while attracting minimal attention as you disentangle your suspects from the tight embrace of their wives and whisk them off in an unmarked cars zipping through public and official security vehicles is a specialised art that should command respect. People must learn to respect specialists and the last thing they should call you is “goon.” Names they could consider coining include “specialised enforcers” or “alternative police” or “rapid apprehenders.” The thing is that if such arrests continue being effected, you cannot afford to have them being attributed to people called goons. This would mean that the law enforcement agencies will be expected to hunt the goons down and charge them with kidnap. And even more tricky, a court of law cannot handle people arrested by goons. Yet such people eventually surface in court and are handled using laws. If a new terminology cannot be coined for these muscular enforcers, then one of the established security agencies has to own them.
Illustration: John Nyaga