Ida Rolf once wrote: “The where you think it is, it ain’t circle. Everything inside the circle impacts the circle. That’s your body as a whole. Everything outside the circle impacts the circle. That’s your environment.”
The inspector general of police (IGP), General Kale Kayihura, believes the public has been unfair in its criticism of police’s work. He believes Uganda has the best police force ever under his command.
But this belief does not tally with the rot exposed recently by the intervention of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) agents. Most of his trusted officers who were arrested were involved in acts ranging from blackmail to kidnap to corruption to murder.
General Kayihura is like the legendary irritated dog that was heavily infested with fleas; instead of seeking the help of the master, it chose to involve itself in the game of chasing its own tail. The more it attempted to catch the tail, the more confusion it caused for itself.
Kayihura is one of the longest-serving IGPs, having assumed that office in 2005. Therefore, the shape and character of the current police force is directly his work.
While presiding over the passing out of 58 police officers at the Police Command and Staff College at Bwebajja, Kayihura declared that he had ordered for the overhaul of 4,000 criminal investigations officers.
He wants to rid the directorate of criminal investigations of bad apples. The clean-up, according to Kayihura, is to be followed up by further training by former USA Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents and British police officers (Scotland Yard).
Perhaps before the good general embarks on training, he needs to establish one thing in the forces: legitimacy. There is no amount of training that will turn police into a reliable and legitimate force if people do not trust it.
Our police force is so militarized that at times it appears like an occupation army. The officers are armed to the teeth and sometimes the power of being armed takes away the people skills that police officers need to solve social issues.
The police have driven a wedge between themselves and the people. Some are like vultures, turning cases to be investigated into carcasses to be devoured. Certain cases can never attract the attention and expertise of a police officer because it is regarded as ‘dry’.
Kayihura’s reign at police has more faith in firepower than establishing legitimate relations with the community. But the firepower has failed to rid the city of criminals who attack residents everywhere and steal their property. At times they have killed those who try to resist them.
The firepower has failed to solve various mysterious murder cases of women in Entebbe and other areas.
It is under his reign that all manner of paramilitary outfits are taking over the work of police. We have had the Boda Boda 2010 who are not recognized by the law but they were armed. They had power to arrest, maim and kill in the name of police. Some police officers could not even touch the Boda Boda 2010 agents. Then we had the crime preventers. This outfit was misconceived and ended up producing more crime harbingers than preventers.
The Constitution and other laws such as the Police Act empower all citizens to be crime preventers. Police didn’t have to create another force to augment its work. What would have worked better is to improve their social relations with various communities and perhaps recruit more police officers than engage in this failed project.
Community leaders are more suited to prevent crime than the armed preventers. These leaders know who is or not employed, they know school dropouts in the area, they know those involved in drug abuse, or the strangers in the community. They should have borrowed the idea of ten cells (Mayumba Kkumi) and improved on it. In the past, it did a wonderful job of gathering intelligence and dismantling crime cells.
What the general needs to do is to reestablish legitimacy of police with citizens. Ugandan women need to feel that when they are in the hands of police officers, their breasts do not risk being fondled. The men, too, should feel that they won’t be thrown under the seats of pickup trucks like sacks of charcoal!
Crime preventers should be dismantled and more resources invested in police officers. The welfare of police needs improvement. Otherwise, Kayihura will keep chasing his tail with no result.
The author is the business development director at The Observer Media Limited.