By Badru Walusansa.
By Badru Walusansa.
One of the outstanding achievements on which this government was premised was maintaining a Police force far not synonymous with previous regimes. The current regime used to leverage on a Police force that was not militarized and brutal, consequently suppressing peoples’ freedoms. However, this has changed over time, and what used to be referred to as a professional Police has now turned into a major human rights violations perpetrator.
I was challenged this morning to get out a copy of my constitution to remind myself about the cardinal functions of the Uganda Police Force. There I was, with article 212 (a) (b), while thinking, what were the framers of this articles thinking not to include; brutalizing civilians with “Kiboko”? Perhaps we need an amendment for the same article in spirit of the Inspector General of Police recent reiteration over these beatings.Not limited to Police brutality that everyone witnessed in the media, who knows there could be a lot of Police brutality against civilians that strenuously goes, unnoticed? This then defeats my expectations of a Police that recently celebrated 100 years with a broad theme, indicative of transition, from colonial policing to community policing.
In reality, community policing is indispensable. That is, citizens should collaboratively work with police and eventually build mutual ties. The underlying question is, have we actually achieved this? Or we are moving towards a different direction? Well, I see a big divide between civilians and Police, although the latter should protect the lives and property of the former. Our Police has branded it’s self too rebellious by committing this kind of impunity in the name of “public order”. It often employs excessive force and repressive prowess onto unarmed civilians, who under such circumstances, sustain severe injuries and lose lives.
Although civil society actively engages Police through amplifying civilian calls to professionalize Police operations, less has been done in response. If Police only and fairly operationalized Article 211 (3) of the constitution; it would save the bad image it’s grappling with.As we continue with this conversation, four Police officers implicated in the mayhem caused against opposition supporters are being tried in police court, in a legal process largely contested as unjust, as expressed by several in the legal fraternity.
One of the recommendations suggested by Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) in light of professionalizing police, is to refrain from using excessive force in regulating public gatherings and effecting arrests and ensuring Police officers are equipped with non-lethal crowd control equipment, such as rubber bullets and tear gas, but even these should be applied proportionately and when absolutely necessary. We need to rethink an institutional policy; relevant to professionalize the Uganda Police Force, lest it continues sliding off its constitutional mandate.
Badru Walusansa is a former CEON-U Observer currently with CCEDU.