Police must Remain Focused on Violent Criminals

By Ofwono Opondo

July, 30, 17  
The Uganda security establishment especially the police and Internal Security Organisation (ISO), alongside the local political leaders are yet again having their capabilities being put to test by the on-going criminality in areas of Katabi town council, Kitubulu, and Nansana municipality, all within Wakiso district, and backyards of Kampala metropolitan where criminal elements have been targeting vulnerable women for rape and murder.
The police and intelligences services ought to focus on the motive, modus operandi, and quickly smash these loose and violent criminal networks in order to re-assure especially the most vulnerable public who travel and conduct their informal businesses during night time, that criminal gangs haven’t taken over space in urban centres. Ugandans hope that with the forthcoming elections of village leaders (LC I and II), we should no longer have the petty excuse of their lack of legal jurisdiction and legitimacy to effectively enforce collective community policing support programs like neighbourhood watch.
Unfortunately, the top security and law enforcement apparatus don’t seem to coordinate their actions well as they should be doing. Instead, it appears each is itching more for media publicity, working in isolation and consequently the impression left in the public is of an uncoordinated movements or perhaps rivalry, which harms their would be good efforts at combating crime. While police points to ritual and serial killers, other actors seem to disagree pointing towards politics instead, and although these may all be open lines of investigations, they ought to be communicated from the same source.
Also, under pressure to achieve quick results, the police seem to be panicky and playing to the public gallery causing it to trample on of the rights of suspects by holding them far beyond the constitutional forty-eight hours within which suspects must either be produced in court or be released on bonds as investigations proceed. While the limited time to conduct a productive investigation particularly in cases such as mysterious murders, aggravated robbery and terrorism may be understandable because of being complicated, the continuous practice of police holding suspects beyond the legal time, borders on impunity and in breach of the constitution.
Having only very recently come out of very intense scrutiny, brutal condemnation and bad publicity over the unprofessional manner in which some of the suspects in the Kasese tribal clashes, and Andrew Felix Kawesi murder were handled, we expect better from the police. The last three months during which nineteen women have been murdered under yet unclear circumstances is worrying trend although it doesn’t by any means imply a breakdown in security either in those specific areas affected or indeed in the whole country. Security agencies should avoid acting in panic and sending mixed messages which emboldens the criminals to act with more impunity. Listening to the comments coming from some of the usual opportunistic opposition leaders, one cannot afford but pity them because they somehow think that President Museveni and NRM’s demise has approached. These opposition politicians instead of being unequivocal in condemning the criminals are instead speaking with celebratory sarcasm how NRM is failing on security which has been part of its bedrock.
The apparent haphazard arrest of suspects including that of my driver, George Sempa who spent twenty five days under police detention in Nalufenya, Jinja, without being produced in court since his arrest, points to a travesty of justice and undermines the rule of law. In the alternative, it demonstrates lack of self-confidence in some of the police officers handling these cases.
And while many Ugandans agree that Nalufenya should remain a detention and interrogation facility for high profile cases, the police leadership ought to ensure that it is managed transparently and within the rule of law where suspects are accorded the right to family and their lawyers without hindrance. Without appearing to plead for Sempa, he and his friends, cum accomplices, were held without being allowed access to any form of legal or family contacts which is in breach of established laws, which gives un-necessary ammunition to some of the unhelpful human rights groups.
In Sempa’s case, he was arrested on the night of August 06, 2017, and his wife Nakabugo Rita, and father, Sanyu Richard were only allowed access to him once on August, 11th, upon my insistence. I have spent the last three weeks contacting the police officers both in Kampala and Nalufenya almost on a daily basis, and all were dodgy, cagy, and unsure of themselves until Monday this week when the IGP Kale Kayihura called to brief me by telephone.
These isolated cases of willful neglect of professional duty by the police which is mandated by law to maintain security, law and order, prevent and detect crime, ensure public safety, and all the rights and freedoms of every person living within Uganda, could cast blight on public perception of the police. Furthermore, especially to none lawyers, it borders on absurdity that suspects are arrested on the murders of women but they are instead charged with terrorism, perhaps, confirming the adage that the law is an ass. A holding charge, if used judiciously could prevent the unlawful long detention of suspects.