Uganda is one of the most policed countries in Africa yet according to the police crime report, murder cases increased in 2019 compared to the year before. I don’t even know whether having thousands more uniforms on the streets makes people feel safer or, possibly, contributes to making them more anxious.
Military personnel are trained to “engage and destroy,” police officers “to protect and to serve.” Expecting young recruits to play both roles is expecting too much. Our military officers are trained to kill. Yet in many instances, our leaders then ask these trained warriors to serve as peace officers, a job that involves entirely different expectations and holds them to a different standard.
My concern is, any move to arming LDUs with military hardware is the rise of the ‘warrior policing’. I believe the rise of the warrior policing has in part come about due to the increasing convergence of military and policing operational doctrines. There have been arguments made to demilitarise the Uganda police, as the warrior policing mentality provides an illusive, dangerous and false sense of security.
What we need is better police officers, not LDUs. Part of the problem, I found talking with police officers, is that traditional policing practice uses deterrence methods – force and the threat of punishment – to motivate compliance.
Deterrence policies may stop crime in some cases, but they are counter to most people’s conception of trust, which depends on the belief that another person will not cause harm.
Because of this trust deficit, deterrence method can fail to produce compliance; and instead, produce conflict between the public and the police. Just watch police operations on You Tube or watch the public reaction to the police response during any protest.
Historically, bad relations between police and the public contribute to the ongoing violence. Police should be seeking for ways to train police officers on improving trust and citizen cooperation. Research from the Retaliatory Violence Insight Project into the challenges police face produced an alternative: Insight Policing.
Insight policing is a community-oriented, problem-solving policing practice designed to help officers take control of situations with the public before conflict escalates. By doing so, the police maintain trust and enhance the probability of cooperation in difficult situations of enforcement.
If police can’t control murders, LDU won’t even come close.
The spiralling murders in Kampala metropolitan require strong and sustained political, community and police action to make suburbs safe for families.
I can see what the president is trying to do, but he is not really offering new strategies or solutions to fight the gun crime that is plaguing Kampala.
It is just a matter of time before guns become more widely used in disputes by traditionally law-abiding members of the public, as a result of “normalisation”, and before shootings follow the USA trend.
I’m not talking about pistol here, but riffles (AK47). We need new and tighter controls on guns and ammunition. This should include a new buy-back scheme for riffles, a national register and should include strengthened border control strategies because all guns come from overseas suppliers.
There’s also need to have a greater high-profile police presence (not LDU) in the suburbs most affected by these murders, and the police response to shooting incidents needs to be immediate and unrelenting. I believe the community will support strong and hard action by police against these criminals.
Criminals are reacting to the lack of enforcement, the lack of police in key target suburbs, and what appears to be lack of political will by the government to really take on the issue of gun crime and criminal gang activity.
In my view, if politicians won’t take on those using guns to settle their disputes and give police the support and direction needed then it is time for local community organisations to take up the challenge.
LDU will never be a solution to crime in Uganda. The most enduring “fix” will come from the combined effects of public and community groups exerting pressure, on the government and police, to break the culture of gang and criminal activity.
Communities in Kampala Metropolitan need to start taking action to organise and reclaim street safety in their suburbs. If politicians and the government can’t fix this escalating problem, the community must stand up and demand an end to these murders.
We need to send a clear message to the government and the gun-wielding criminals that we will support whatever action is needed to make our streets safe again.
The author is a private investigator and founder of Richards Private Investigations.