Opinion | Desecration of Uganda Police Force By Moses Khisa

Posted October 28, 2017 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Opinion ~ 3,377 views


By Moses Khisa — Uganda’s self-declared political ‘liberators’ who arrived in 1986 labelled the extant Uganda Police Force as an anti-people establishment. It was a colonially oriented state coercive institution, so we were told, trained to brutalise, and not protect the citizens.

Thus, for most of the first decade of the NRM rule, the police was painted as a negative force out to frustrate if not entirely subvert the mission of the ‘revolutionary’ Museveni regime. So, it had to be dealt with.

The chief is on record for furiously, albeit sounding rather facetious, stating that the police disliked him so much that they would vote for anything, including a cow, but not him.

At one point, members of the force were put on notice that they were to be fixed such that at the next election, in 2001, they would vote wisely. They didn’t; it was called a bluff, but more was to come.

Contrary to the rhetoric of reforming the police to provide security and become pro-people instead of being a source of insecurity, the president’s undisguised animosity against a very important, in fact the most important, state institution was borne of political grievances: the police was not doing his bidding.

There is no doubt that, like many state institutions, especially intelligence and security organizations, the police had suffered its own share of institutional decay and dysfunction through the years of social unrest and political instability in the 1970s and 80.

Part of this state of affairs was occasioned by the war being fought by those who claimed a mission to liberate us from misrule.

Yet even for all its policing failings, the rot that had infested the top hierarchy, and a battered public image, the police remained a modestly professional force up until the onslaught that started in 2001.

The route to capturing the force and place it under the firm control of the supreme rulers, and exorcise it of its recalcitrant tendencies, was found in the appointment of a military man at the top.

But it appears that the military general first appointed to the job, Katumba Wamala, harboured a hangover from his long experience as a professional soldier.

He was slow to turn a state institution as critical as the police into an instrument of securing the regime. He had to be dropped. And in came an unfailing and unprofessional soldier, Gen Kale Kayihura, whose loyalty to serve the master was not in question.

He took over in November 2005, promptly greeted with a student riot at Makerere University, followed in quick succession with a violent protest on the afternoon Kizza Besigye was first arrested.

From the time he assumed office, the new overzealous and highly partisan inspector general of police for the last twelve long years has arguably performed beyond expectation. He has been outstanding in securing his master in power, in the process turning the police into a wholly different outfit from what a modern police is supposed to be.

The exigencies of regime survival have meant that the force gets engaged in activities and actions totally outside the purview of policing, enforcing the law and maintaining order.

The police has become the preeminent intelligence and national security agency never mind the ill-thought disbandment of the Special Branch, a highly professional intelligence and counterintelligence department of the police.

Now this would be without much problem only that what is at stake here is not the security of the country and the public interest but the desires and aspirations of an individual ruler who currently perilously clings onto power.

The responsibility of securing the regime has greatly imperilled the integrity of the police. It has meant distorting operational and command structures, including placing inexperienced and incompetent young but overzealous officers in important command positions. It has necessitated transfers so frequent that many commanders might be unsure of lasting a week at their new posting.

The scheme has also entailed a most egregious form of nepotism, greatly skewing the composition of the force and stripping it of crucial meritocracy in recruitment, training, promotion and postings.

But perhaps the most far-reaching desecration has been the flooding of the police with unqualified and in some instances outright criminal groups, militia outfits and all manner of vigilantes justified in the name of ‘community policing,’ a notoriously abused concept.

The net outcome of a series of measures and actions, from appointing a militaryman with unflinching loyalty to a specific ruler, the dubious recruitments and promotions bearing blatant nepotism to criminal gangs added in the mix, the Uganda Police Force today is easily more anti-people than the one found as of 1986.

There is something deeply painful about the current spate of needless force in breaking up opposition political rallies, leading to teargassing of not just ordinary citizens but MPs, the people’s representatives, injuries and even deaths.

All in the name of enforcing a most outrageous decree of some sorts: that members of parliament cannot attend and speak at a meeting or rally that is not in their constituency.

Where do the police derive such powers? And what’s the logic of such an obviously silly prohibition? One can only make one conclusion: the regime in Kampala sits on shaky ground and the rulers have become dangerously paranoid.

The author is an assistant professor of political science at North Carolina State University.

Source — The Observer

About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.


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