Sunday, May 21, 2017

VIDEO: #Uganda police fall from grace - @IGPUganda @aKasingye @PoliceUg @KagutaMuseveni @UPDFspokesman #PoliceBrutality


By Fr Anthony Musaala

President Museveni,  who was in attendance at the vigil mass of the late Assistant Inspector General of Police Kaweesi recently, lamented the infiltration of police ranks with mafia-like elements, and instructed General Kayihura, his trusted Inspector general of Police to weed them out.

The image of the Uganda Police Force is very badly tainted if  it is true that criminals have penetrated the force so deeply that serious crimes are committed with their help. Things are bad.

For many Ugandans however the police force had already soiled its image long ago by its violent ‘law and order’ operations  against the opposition, and particularly against Dr Kiiza Besigye.

By brutally suppressing the right to free assembly, free movement, peaceful demonstrations and free speech in the name of ‘law and order’ it became an enemy of a large section of the population.  The brutality of these operations was frequently captured on news video for all to see.

The Police Force needs redemption.

The latest revelations of torture by the police and other security organs at Nalufenya house are thoroughly disturbing, but hardly surprising.

They are the tip of a large the iceberg of many hidden atrocities committed in the name of  saving Uganda from its past, or so it seems!

Although the President in reaction to the media stories, has told security agencies not to use torture, it is so many sound bites. Of course they will continue to use torture, as it was in the beginning, and is now especially where they deem it necessary.

In other words the alleged goings at Nalumenya house are part of a secret culture of human rights violations in Uganda which  and in which some of the police are main actors.

Add to this picture the chilling daylight mysterious killings of prominent people, including the slaying of  the late Kaweesi, himself a senior police officer by well trainedbut  unknown assailants, and the gravity of the matter is clear.

One journalist who had been  investigating the handling of one of these mysterious shootings, wrote to the President seeking protection from a high-ranking police chief, whom he says  wanted to do him harm on account of his investigations. If this is true, it is doubly disturbing.

All the police are now  being tarred with same brush even though many ‘good’ police officers do fine work on abysmal pay and in difficult circumstances.

People nevertheless now have a very low opinion of police officers generally, and do  not expect much good from any of them.

The police have thus become easy to demonize.

There is however, a more general question related to this unfortunate situation.

What are the origins of systemic failures within state organs in Uganda, such as the police force?

When organs of state begin to fail in their functions, do we attempt look at any of the root causes, or only at the symptoms?

The police force is one of several bodies which comprise the  organs of the state. What are the general and specific conditions  under which these organs of state function  in Uganda.

Are they favourable or unfavourable  ? Are they  normal or abnormal?

An analogy is that of  a healthy lifestyle being requisite to one’s general health.  If for instance I keep getting malaria, but won’t sleep under a net, then I must change my lifestyle and start sleeping under a net or  else just  on keep getting malaria

Similiarly if the general conditions of governance in Uganda are not conducive to the  functioning of particular state organs, with the result that they frequently sicken or fail, then what must  change is  governance. Everything else follows.

Here is a list of World bank indicators of good governance

1. Government effectiveness
2. Control of corruption
3. Political stability and absence of violence/ terrorism
4. Regulatory quality
5. Rule of law
6. Voice and accountability

The general conditions of governance in Uganda appear to be fairly normal.

There is some peace,  some freedom of the press, some  accountability, there is some devolution of power, some human rights, and a functioning economy ( though functioning below capacity) . Overall there is some government effectiveness.

Is this merely ‘political art’? To what extent is all this  a charade and masking serious deficiencies?

In totalitarian, or dysfunctional systems which typify poor governance, there will always be a semblance of normality. In Uganda there is much that is normal and even laudable, yet the function of this ‘normality’ may be to anaesthetize the masses, or to impress foreigners.

Karl Marx said that religion is the ‘opium of the people’. It keeps them drugged in a stupor of apolitical indifference.

‘Normality’ and a semblance of good governance may serve a similiar function in a state which has some autocratic tendencies and in which all settle down to a ‘benign’ dictatorship. This is true in China, North Korea, Rwanda and very many African states, including Uganda.

Uganda’s situation can be described as that of a creeping autocracy, or creeping totalitarianism,
because there is a gradual or creeping centralization of power, especially by the head of state and those around him, and there is  less and less accountability.

This in terms of governance is abnormal, dysfunctional and unsustainable. It will result either in sudden and serious rebellion, or revolution.

In the beginning things were not like this. When the NRM came to power 31 years ago, it set itself high standards of governance and  ethics, using the  key phrase ‘fundamental change’ to infer that true democracy and good governance  were returning to Uganda.

It is now a glaring incongruity in Uganda's 'normal' state of affairs  that the head of state’s powers have increased disproportionately to the size of government being rolled out, and  goes unchallenged. The president and his  clique are able to make decisions that are politically expedient (for them) using any of the state organs, more or less whenever they wish.

There are numerous examples of this, notably, interference with the courts and the media and the deployment of hordes of security forces at will for various ‘security’ operations,  the influence of  the ruling political class in most areas of life, manipulation of the economy, corruption concealment.

Parliament itself barely manages to be anything but a rubber stamp of the NRM project, though very occasionally there is a surprise of some independent thinking.

There are hordes  of  presidential advisers and other hangers-on who do the president’s bidding in different state organs institutions and parastatals to make sure that only one objective is pursued.

In a normal democracy where there is good governance, the principle of SUBSIDIARITY ensures that what can be done at a lower levels of  administration, is not appropriated by higher ones.

If that does not happen there will be an imbalance of power , resulting in a top heavy administration. The ‘top-to-bottom’ kind of governance, the upside down ‘pyramid model’ which actually deforms  state apparatus, and is the main cause of their dysfunction and eventual fatigue.

This is almost a coup d’etat, but  one from the top rather from the bottom. It completely disrupts the delicate system of checks and balances  built into each state institution, and it sends the wrong message that ordered institutions  are superfluous.

This is the real reason why the civil police force, which has its own rules of conduct and which should operate strictly within the law can  be used in an extra-judicial manne with impunity, to attack or harm civilians, or to torture them and why the police themselves can do nothing about it.

Orders come from above. Beyond the police force itself, strings are  pulled, pressure is  applied and political goals are  made the objective.

So when police officers are put in a corner about human rights abuses, or indiscipline  they can only mouth the unconvincing mantras of ‘maintaining law and order’ ‘security concerns’ and occassionally ‘orders from above’. This is what is happening.

What they do not say is that their common sense and good conscience have been compromised by illegitimate commands from beyond, and that the proper commanding authority has been supplanted  by a politicizing authority.

This sadly makes police personnel accomplices, in violations of the law, knowingly or not.

When the police appears to become an arm of  state-inspired violence, it must expect to be hated by the general public, and in a revolution to become a target of  vengeance.

Then there is the matter of the funding of organs of state and how such organs can be manipulated by the regime through restricting or increasing funding.

Some organs of state are well funded or given capacity in such a way as they can deliver their services effectively.

The police force however, as  compared say to the army, has been underfunded by the state for  years. Increased spending on the police seems to be on  armoured vehicles,water cannon, tear gas and assorted  uniforms.

Salaries, housing and welfare of officers seem to be low on the priority list. Huge spending on anti-riot gear and low spending on welfare gives the impression that police are of little value apart from being used to pacify the rioting public.

This will not change unless the police force is properly funded for its internal functional needs and not for politically motivated goals such as suppressing the opposition, or  dissident voices.

Now  the police has been infiltrated  by dubious characters, some of whom appear  connected to people inside government. These are not just the usual  state operatives who are found everywhere, but  criminally  proficient hit-men on a mission, and who need the police as a cover for their operations.

Has the police  become so inept that criminal types must be hired to do some of its work? What is the game plan of a government which tolerates criminals and mafia like elements to operate along side its trained police officers ?

Another question is why a civilian police force should be so militarized (remember the black mambas at the High Court), and segmented into so many specialized groups. ‘Special’ police constables, crime preventers, alongside regular forces and other specialized groups . No one is sure who or what a proper police officer is supposed to look like, or to whom an officer is finally accountable.

There is  mutual suspicion between all these segmented groups within the police, which  become factious and cliquey, jostling for meager resources and the attentions of superiors.

For all these reasons the Police has been losing its morale  and  its moral compass for some time. Years of low wages, poor housing and difficult working conditions, have all fostered an ingrained  culture of taking bribes  and payments for services and now cooption of mafia.

Police officers with integrity do exist, but there is an impression that  police officers have very little integrity left.

Nevertheless it is clear that the police force is likely more sinned against than sinning, and that  its mediocre state is also due to how it finds itself positioned vis-a-vis the more powerful forces of the state, higher up.


General Kale  Kayihura has been  re-appointed to preside over this mess in the police. He is a trusted NRM cadre but with a thankless task similar to ‘mission impossible’.

How can he satisfy so many interests, first of all those of  the NRM ideologues, who want to align the police force to the NRM  outlook? The NRM is itself challenged by internal squabbles, and now has an ingrained culture of patronage. Purely ideological concerns no longer hold the pride of place  they used to within the party.

Cadres like General Kayihura already come to their tasks somewhat conflicted. They have to position themselves carefully within the party to retain their jobs and not to tread on too many toes and yet must do the President’s bidding, or possibly get shunted aside.

Within the police force itself General Kayihura for all his intelligence and seeming competence, is  so far  unable to command the moral authority within the entire police force to inspire  reform, after all these years.

The rank and file of police perhaps still perceive him as a an outsider connected to the regime, which  has not bothered to endear itself to the police.

How can police officers for instance, feel assured that General Kayihura will address their many basic welfare needs (which have become a bottomless pit because they were ignored for so long)? How will those needs be any better met now than before when the budget for the police hardly supports even the basic needs of present numbers of officers?

General Kayihura, so far seems unable or unwilling to deal with layers of corruption and sloppiness  within the force, with the result that criminal activities are not properly investigated and investigations are unconcluded. Why?

His recent move in trying to solve Kaweesi’s grisly murder was by suddenly finding “suspects” and parading them before the press seemed unprofessional to say the least. Was this necessary?

Apart from violating the rights of suspects, this impressed no-one and looked like a cheap way of placating the public. One hopes that such blunders are avoided in the future.

General Kayihura conscientious as he is, should take seriously that the civil police force is in some sort of crisis  and he has been tasked to deal with it thoroughly on behalf of Ugandans not just the government.

It is a pity that General Kayihura does not have someone like the late Kaweesi to stand with him in this difficult task, certainly someone of his stature from within the force would be an asset.

AIGP  Kaweesi despite having offered himself wholesale  to the NRM project, and allowing himself to become the acceptable face of an increasingly brutalizing police force , was nonetheless a thorough-going police officer who tried to balance law enforcement with humanity.

He was a ‘gentleman’ type, whose civility, important  for a police officer, shone through and made him popular, despite some of his grimmer misdeeds and blunders, notably his remarks regarding the Kaseese police operation, which were a PR disaster.

He was also very familiar with the intricacies of police culture.

Was Kaweesi next in line for IGP?

General Kale Kayihura by comparison is rational and legalistic and a little lacking in affability. Although he is often at pains to be approachable to ordinary people, tactful and reasonable, it often doesn’t work because it doesn’t come as naturally to him, say as it did to AIGP Kaweesi.

One gets the impression that he is ‘doing his masters bidding’  rather than that he is his own man, and this might be what undermines his professional approach to police operations.

Will Kayihura survive ?

Though his  cadre credentials will keep him in the inner circles of the NRM  for a good stretch, he is not as indispensable as some in the regime. Will he eventually be eased out like Katumba Wamala, or suffer some other unhappy fate, for not performing?

It is difficult to see where to begin to redeem the police force, which is so far gone in its errancy, yet it must be done.

To begin with the criminal element within the police force is intolerable. It must  be excised with all due speed.  If, as some believe, these   elements are also connected to politicians, it will need courage to dislodge them. It will require tact and intelligence to determine who  planted them there and why, so that  they can also be confronted.

One must discover the reasons to have such dark forces within the police force. Is to assist the wrongdoings of  more powerful persons higher up in government? If serious crimes are being  committed by top officials of the state, then having ‘criminal police’ to assist them is probably a good cover up.

Another  possible  motive for having blatant criminals within the force, is to discredit it. One hears that during the last round of elections, the police force on the whole did not vote NRM.

One  hopes that some of the NRM regime are not trying to discredit the police as a kind of revenge for  its ‘poor voting choice’.

In truth the  police force remains  a hard nut to crack politically, and  Museveni has not  succeeded. The appointment of army men to the highest offices in the police by itself is unlikely to yield compliance to the NRMs via vitae.

The police need to be strategically, wooed using other means, one of which may be a better investment in their personal welfare.

The police force is complex. Its ethnic mix contains a bulk of northern and  eastern police officers, who dominate  it, with westerners and southerners  recently ‘muscling in’, on what is unfamiliar territory.

The ethno-political loyalties within the police do not favour the NRM and yet their allegiance to other political groups also remains unpredictable.

Police unlike the army, have some deeper legal education and are articulate, and
able to be stubborn and contentious as anyone knows who deals with police officers. Ideological issues must be very carefully packaged for them.

Police officers tend to be self-absorbed mainly with police-work and police culture and do not respond well to what is outside their field unless there is a personal rather than a ‘corporate’ advantage.

In any case within the police force there are obviously networks within networks, each with its own lines of authority, and absorbed with its own  interests and ‘opportunities’.

The police  however, must now be reformed  if it is not going to  be sacrificed at the altar of Musevenism, a byword for the worst aspects of President Museveni’s 30 year rule.

Serious  police officers must introspect, especially about the long term effects of the culture of bribes, of  torture and suppressing human rights, and of cooperating with mafia or criminals, whether planted by the state or others.

From within their ranks  new kinds of ethical leaders must emerge who can inspire confidence in the lower and middle ranks and who can challenge political manipulators.

Certainly the police should resist manipulation by the state, no matter which party is in power, by rigorously observing the police code of conduct  and by following due processes of law when dealing with civilians, especially those in opposition.

They should expose the mafia in their midst and their intricate conspiracies, using the media if necessary and ignoring the manipulations of  those who are unable to understand their  situation as civilian police, but want to use them for their own ends, political or otherwise.

The police also  needs  to be  on the side of the people.There ought be clear ‘values statements’ which recognize the ordinary struggle for  justice, human rights and  democracy by all Ugandans as being legitimate. This they must do  without  being politically partisan.

If  this is not done, the police will continue to suffer public approbation, and will continue to be used and abused by the state, or by  anyone for that matter.

Starngely the police might need to borrow a leaf or two from the UPDF (Uganda People’s Defence Force), which has definitely become more professional ( admittedly under very highly paid cadre-Generals!)

Nevertheless, many UPDF soldiers are not necessarily pro-professionals but are still able to serve in a professional manner. The professionalization of the army has been successful probably because it  started from scratch after the last coup.

The UPDF is an entirely new creation of the ‘new’ Uganda, while the police force is stuck with its old ‘traditions’ from past eras. Reforming the police is like setting broken old bones, some of which can never be properly re-aligned.

Nevertheless, a thorough going ‘fundamental change’ must happen in the Police Force, as happened in the army, if it is to regain public confidence.

The UPDF is conscious of its public image, the police   need to be more so. The police must professionalize itself as the UPDF has done but without succumbing to the distortions within the state apparatus caused by ‘toxic politicization’ or plainly, bad politics which subvert matters of conscience, morals and common sense.


The writer, Fr Anthony Musaala, lives in Kampala and is the Vicar General of the Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church in Uganda. He is an occasional commentator on society, theology, human rights and politics in Uganda.

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