“When you [see] a police patrol car at night, run!” that is the advice a local leader in Bwaise II zone gives residents.
The statement speaks volumes about the mistrust between the police and the people living in some of Kampala’s slums where crime, radicalisation and extreme violence breed – especially in communities with immigrant populations.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Uganda, European Union and police are setting up facilities to help stop crime before it occurs.
A recent meeting between police from the directorate of counter terrorism, local leaders and residents of Bwaise in Kawempe, Kampala, revealed how the Early Warning Systems initiative hopes to work. The plan is to establish avenues through which the people can freely interact with police and report crime before it happens.
Sahra Farah, project manager for Strengthening Social Cohesion and Stability in Slum Populations (SSCoS), explained that globally, law enforcers respond to events that are happening, but with the early warning system threats can be prevented before the fact.
“We are working with police and will be in the three slums we are working. The project targets where IOM extends equipment and financial services for start-ups to enable the youth establish their businesses,” she said.
The systems are being established in Bwaise, Kisenyi and Katwe or Kabalagala’s slums. Reports from IOM indicate that slum youths are easily radicalised, making them vulnerable to extremism which exposes Uganda to terrorism.
The set-up includes computers and mobile phones through which the community will call or send SMS. A typical centre will be manned by the police and community members chosen by residents in an area.
Assistant Superintendent of Police Mary Nankinga, who is in charge of social media, recognises that the public does not have faith in the police and observes that such initiatives will help boost police work and security in the slums.
“With the Early Warning Systems in place, we are going to continue to work on our relationship with the people; people that bring us information need protection but sometimes we don’t do that in time. Sometimes it’s because the community is not cooperative or fear to talk,” she said.
“IOM has trained police officers and from the skills we give them, enable us easily interact with communities; terrorism always starts small with things like killing women, hitting people with iron bars, groups like Kifesi but the community must be ready to work with police,” she said.