Police officers deployed in Karamoja in northeastern Uganda are pleading for rank promotions and transfers from the semi-arid region.
The officers, most of them at low rank, say that they have over-stayed in Karamoja, enduring the pain of working in a hard to reach area, far away from their homes and families.
The account was collected from officers in the districts of Moroto, Napak and Kaabong. The officers who requested to speak on condition of anonymity for fear of being reprimanded, said that staying in the area for years without transfers and promotions tantamount to punishment.
"About 110 of us were sent here in 2012. Along the way, some people found their way back to Kampala or other places. Others got genuine transfers and the rest fought their way out. As we talk, only 15 of us are still in Moroto," one of the officers said.
Another officer posted in Kaabong as a police constable in 2005 said many of them feel dejected but do not have a choice.
"Here, once you are posted, it's like the top leadership in Kampala forgets about your existence in the force. Sometimes, I feel this is a punishment because even residents here feel as if I'm not a trained police officer", he said.
Another officer from Napak said he had unsuccessfully applied for a transfer from CID headquarters because of some frustrations originate from working in the hard to reach area. He observed that many of the officers transferred from the region are not replaced because few people are willing to work in Karamoja.
"Some of my colleagues, especially non tribesmen are sent here on punishment. In most cases, they are rejects from other places and worst of all, people with lower academic qualifications," he said.
The officer added that the police leadership needs to give affirmative action to those officers who have sacrificed to work in Karamoja.
"We don't have any privileges. The food ratios that we used to get have dwindled, all motor bikes are almost down and those working are maintained by individual police officers," the officer said before narrating a rather disturbing tale of begging for tyres from Chinese road contractors, to fix a police vehicle.
"Just last week, we went begging to the Chinese working on the road for vehicle tyres when our DPC was 'bounced' from Kampala. Getting fuel for field work in Karamoja is like a miracle unless some partner intervenes," he added.
Katikekile sub-county councilor John Baptist Lotee says his electorate has complained that some of the officers who have overstayed in the area have been compromised by friends.
Mt Moroto regional police commander Richard Aruk Maruk declined to comment on the matter. However, his colleague for Kidepo, Stephen Onechan said the claims of overstaying in Karamoja are exaggerated. Onechan said that the police force facilitates its officers with food and other privileges.
"No one has stayed for more than 10 years. Even our vehicles are serviced and maintained by maintenance officers and mechanics at the region. Whoever gave you that information isn't a police officer ", he said.