Laid off special police constables (SPCs) in Kabale district have vowed not to hand over police uniforms until they have been paid all their salary arrears.
Following the expiry of their contracts, police recently ordered the SPCs to immediately hand over the uniforms that they have been using because they have ceased being police officers. However, in Kabale, the SPCs reacted by storming the Kabale Central police station today, demanding unpaid salaries for January, February and March.
According to the statement issued by police spokesperson Fred Enanga last year, each SPC was supposed to be paid a monthly salary of Shs 370,000. Nelson Agaba, Isaac Ainembabazi and Sherinah Kebirungi said they were made to open bank accounts immediately after recruitment, but up to now, their accounts are empty.
The SPCs said they were deceived into working without appointment letters yet when they demanded for payment, the police commanders asked them to present evidence that they were police officers.
"We still have their uniforms but they said this time around it is a crime to put on the uniform. They are even asking that now that our contract is over, the uniforms we’re not supposed to put them on instead we’re supposed to take them back. We can’t get the right information, everyone you ask says; ask the other one. You go there, they tell you; 'I am not involved in your issues.' The uniforms, we have to keep them until they pay us. We don’t have appointment letters, if we hand over the uniforms, nobody will know that we have ever worked for police. So we’re not handing over the uniforms until they pay us. If they don’t pay us, that means we shall keep their uniforms for life," said Keburingi.
Sheilah Kesande, another SPC said they started enquiring about their salaries after their counterparts who were recruited in the first batch received their salaries for January and February.
Kesande said they had been trying to make inquiries from the office of the Kabale district police commander and Kigezi regional police commander, but each time they got confused since none of the commanders explained why they couldn’t get their salaries.
"We’re here to demand our salary for three months. We were helping the police because they needed extra force. We’re not paid our second batch. We’re here to demand for our three months. Can you give someone a uniform who is not in the system? We have not been paid since January, we need that money. Landlords are demanding their money, food, we need to survive. It is so shaming that we have not been paid yet we hear that money is out," said Kesande.
The SPCs vowed never to hand in police uniforms until they were paid. They said the green, long-sleeved shirts, trousers and gumboots were their last hope of getting their salaries since they had no other evidence.
"Sincerely we’re not ready to hand over the uniforms if we don’t have the money. We need our money, if there is no money, there is no giving out the uniforms," said one SPC.
However, Kigezi region commander Dan Byaruhanga accused the SPCs of impatience. According to Byaruhanga, the complainants were recruited "late" in the second batch which had 123 SPCs. He explained that approval of their recruitment was delayed by the human resource office at the police headquarters in Kampala - the reason they did not receive the appointment letters by the time they got deployed at the various polling stations.
"After training them, we sent their names to be approved by police headquarters who is human resource and the first and second payments, they directed us that those ones who are not appearing on the list they have sent to us, we should not pay them and that is what we did. The approval is being processed, after processing, they will send us their money for three months only that they are impatient. But we’re not chasing them because we gave them uniforms, we recruited them, gave them certificates so it is police headquarters which is delaying their payments which they are processing so there should be no blame game," said Byaruhanga.
Byaruhanga said they were expecting both the appointment letters and the salaries of the second batch to be released “as soon as possible". Byaruhanga further said he was okay with the SPCs keeping the uniforms until they are paid, but he warned of arrest if they are used for criminal activities.
Meanwhile, some of the dissatisfied SPCs petitioned the Office of the Inspectorate of Government, Kabale branch. However, they found the head of the IGG's office in Kabale, Sam Agaba reportedly away on leave.
While speaking to our reporter in a phone interview, Agaba confirmed that he had been contacted about the matter and the petition would be forwarded to the IGGs head office for advice on the procedure.
He said the case could either be sanctioned for investigation or his office would write to the concerned authorities for clarification.