Ugandans have taken to social media expressing divergent opinion after a photo of Deputy Attorney General, Mwesigwa Rukutana wielding a rifle on his farm went viral on the internet.
A photo that emerged on Friday shows Rukutana who doubles as Member of Parliament for Rushenyi county in Ntungamo district walking on what is assumed to be his farm. In the background, a herd of cattle can be seen grazing on green pasture.
A rifle, an AK-47 is strapped on the deputy Attorney General’s shoulder as he holds it with his right hand. It is not clear whether Rukutana was aware that the photo had been taken, until it went public.
But the photo has divided opinion on social media, some criticizing Rukutana for letting out such a photo, while others have dismissed critics claiming there is absolutely nothing wrong with the MP owning a gun or holding it while on his property.
“What message does the Deputy AG of the republic of Uganda want to pass, by allowing himself to be photographed with an AK47 on a cattle farm and then share with the public!” David Mayeku asked in a tweet.
Opposition party, FDC posted the photo on Twitter with a caption reading: “A man (Mwesigwa Rukutana, Deputy Attorney General of Uganda) grazing his cattle the Karamoja style in Ankole. Will UPDF that disarmed Karamojongs move to disarm Banyankore who graze cattle with guns?”
The head of the Government Citizen’s Interaction Centre, Morrison Rwakakamba tweeted: “Clearly we need a National Dialogue! We used to graze with sticks!”
Human rights lawyer, Nicholas Opio also in a tweet, wondered whether the gesture by Rukutana is “a sign of peace ornbelief in the rule of law that his office is supposed to embody”.
But in response to lawyer Opio, a one Joshua Bahabwa sided with Rukutana saying that there is nothing wrong with someone trying to be “awake” in today’s Uganda where people are being assassinated without any kind of self defense.
It comes at a time when government is making interventions amid rising cases of urban crime including assassination of high profile individuals. In June this year, former Arua MP, Ibrahim Abiriga was shot dead by armed assassins as he drove home in the evening. In the wake of his killing, several MPs expressed concern over their security.
“What is wrong with one moving with a gun and morever on a farm so long as he lawfully owns it?” Edward Dumba wrote in a tweet.
Another tweet hinted at the possibility that Rukutana was perhaps armed because he had been at a shooting range.
In Uganda, it is legal for a private citizen to own a gun, a right that is provided for by the Fire Arms Act of 1970.
The Act requires one to obtain a firearm certificate before possessing a gun, and that “a fire arm certificate shall entitle the holder to purchase, acquire, have in his or her possession or use the firearm and ammunition described in the certificate”.
The law states that a gun can only be granted to anybody who; has reasonable cause to purchase, acquire or have in his or her possession a firearm or ammunition, is competent to use a firearm of the kind in respect of which the application is made; has attained the age of 25 and is of sound mind and of temperate habits.
The other condition for possessing a gun is that one is capable of taking all proper steps to ensure the safe custody of the firearm in respect of which the application is made and will install a minimum safety to the satisfaction of the police officer in charge of the area in which he or she resides.