On the Police reshuffles; is it for the good of Museveni or Ugandans?

At the heels of all the insecurities in the country and the due public rage which had been mounted against the Kayihura-led Police Force, President Museveni made what according to many, has been referred to as drastic changes in the security apparatus. Recently, media was awash with the Presidential communique ending the era of Gen. Kale Kayihura, former IGP and Gen. Henry Tumukunde, former security minister. Kayihura was replaced by his former deputy Martin Okoth Ochola while Gen. Elly Tumwine took over from Gen. Henry Tumukunde.

Although the President made a score by saving us the unending fights between the two army generals which in some way had compromised national security, his choice of appointment remains questionable as to whether it’s for his own good or for the country. Firstly, the president has continued to show his lack of confidence in civilian police which is the ideal choice of police for majority Ugandans. We expected the president to have keenly observed Kayihura’s method of work which tainted a bad image on the force, in order to inform why it is relevant to demilitarize police.

President Museveni is fond of making appointments based of his political liken without being considerate to what could have been desirable for the country. In the first place he appointed Gen. Kayihura, best known to him as an NRM carder to superintend over the country’s police force. This explains why the force was perceived to be partisan hence used as a tool to advance Museveni’s rule. This was a kind of a force which would parade all forms of sophisticated machinery to suppress and demobilize opposition yet on the other hand failed to counter crime and multiple murders.

Police under Kayihura was also castigated for being the principal violator of human rights and freedoms of mainly journalists and activists. In all these undertakings, the force proved to be working on orders of the regime, to the extent that it would go bare knuckles with whoever opposed the Museveni rule. It’s also during Kayihura’s tenure that we witnessed militia groups taking on police’s functions and worst of all engaging in organized crime which went unexplained.

The new face of Police

IGP Okoth Ochola being at helm of police could give an array of hope that we are yet to witness some semblance of a professional force due to the fact that the new IGP is purely of a civilian construct. However, there are divergent views that have been advanced that his role could be overtaken by his deputy, Brigadier Sabiiti Muzeyi. I think, like many Ugandans have opined, the appointment of Brigadier Sabiiti Muzeyi as Deputy IGP is a clear indication that we are likely to see more of the same. Further, it is not that the newly appointed DIGP has been harshly judged but like biblical teachings state, “every man will be judged by his works,” Ugandans are right to perceive his appointment as being political and calculated. It is established that Brigadier Sabiiti is the one who commanded the SFC to attack parliament during the passing of the heated controversial age-limit bill and as a result many MPs sustained injuries but also this animosity attack turned parliament into a brawl of sorts.

If approved as DIGP, Brigadier Sabiiti is likely to continue trekking the same path as his predecessor since they are both made of the same fabric. It will be so unfortunate because he (Sabiiti) won’t work by his conscious because he will always want to appease the appointing authority. Therefore, we should be expectant to see a force with a military approach embedded in its operations.

Musevenism police Vs Uganda Police Force

The former is highly driven by the whims of the appointing authority which has denied Ugandans a chance to embrace the latter. Just like other institutions, the Uganda Police Force has not been spared by the rampant institutional breakdown at the expense of Museveni. Being a national security force that breathes “orders from above,” police has totally failed to be accountable to the citizens. Most appointments and/or recruitments within the top leadership of the force are still influenced by ethnical sentiments which has hindered inclusiveness and perhaps explain the dearth of professionalism in police. As such there are still biting challenges that the force is still grappling with, such as poor standards of living (housing) for officers, poor pay, limited capacity to combat crime, corruption among others.

What needs to be done?

As Gen. Tumukunde intimated days before his sacking that, “security was the biggest asset at the disposal of the ruling government,” I would like to see a Uganda where security is a basic and that citizens are not deprived of such. We can achieve this by respecting security institutions, especially police which many citizens interface with. We need to erect a civilian police force whose priority doesn’t lie in procuring and stocking cans of tear gas but one which can guarantee the security of Ugandans. The top leadership of police needs to consider strengthening the capacity of police to adapt counter mechanisms of combating the changing patterns of crime; recruitment of personnel within the force should be based on merit; And critical among all is that the welfare of police officers should be improved to minimize the malaise of corruption as well as misconduct. Finally, we should work towards a people-centred police which is not on life support of Museveni.

Badru Walusansa

Commonwealth Correspondent