Sticking points for IGP Gen. Kale Kayihura

By Ofwono Opondo

 May 10, 17

The re-appointment of Gen. Kale Kayihura as Inspector General of Police (IGP) by President Yoweri Museveni to a fifth-term and his easy confirmation process by parliament is a vote of confidence in his job since first appointed in 2005 to rebuild the Uganda police force. It is important to always remember that the Uganda police force was part of the British colonial state that was bequeathed us at independence in 1962, and as such was never meant, and indeed had never been a democratic or pro-people institution as many critics today would like the public to believe.
From its founding in 1912, the Uganda police was meant to suppress public dissent against authority, with brutal force at the slightest opportunity if necessary, which it employed quite often over the years. The police was only accountable to the country’s top executive leadership. With time as Uganda descended into the political abyss the police and its officers however junior became a law onto themselves, not publicly accountable to anyone except themselves. And taking advantage of the wide discretionary powers at their disposal, the police by 1998 had turned into a rouge state institution from where Kayihura picked it in 2005.
Overall, since 2005 the police has increased its personnel from 14,000 in 2005 to 44,000 today, improved in professional and specialized training, logistics and management, and is increasingly becoming a pro-people service accountable to the general public in its day-to-day work, knowing well that any acts of recklessness, unprofessional conduct or impunity cannot pass un-noticed or punished. The basic entry qualification into the police is now well-established and known than ever before making it a lot easier to train the personnel into professionals of repute.
Working with other security agencies, Kayihura as IGP has reduced almost all categories of crimes including preventing major terrorist attacks, save perhaps for cyber-offences because of new technologies. In particular, violent crime perpetuated using guns during broad-day like the robberies of banks, forex bureaus, large businesses, and cars in the city centre, and on highways, as well as child sacrifices which were rampant are rare today. The recent incidences of violent snap murders appear to be by organized groups that trail victims for yet to established reasons, which the police must break pretty fast.
The police was able to build its capacity to protect the stability and integrity of the state and legitimate government, and thwarted extremist opposition groups that had orchestrated violent civil disobedience, disruption or prevention of elections, cause economic, and even state collapse through what they called the ‘tsunami’. Actually, this is the group most actively hostile to Kayihura’s re-appointment.
That said however, there are sticking points that IGP Kayihura must aggressively and quickly deal with within his new term among them the evident ethnic imbalance in the police starting with recruitment, deployments and promotions which threatens to erode the constitutional requirement of being of a national character in composition. The second, and most potent, Kayihura must ensure that increasing cases and perennial accusation of police brutality, use of excessive or unwarranted force against un-armed civilians during law enforcement especially peaceful protests is eliminated. The many incidences captured on public media when police officers clobber civilians are a serious indictment that cannot be logically explained let alone defended.  Equally, the rising incidences that happen before the public and the continuous reports by suspects, their relatives and lawyers of physical torture of suspects under police custody must be fully investigated and eradicated otherwise the police ceases to be a place of first refuge for those running from danger.
Every effort must be made to eradicate the police, at all levels of unprofessional conduct like overtly showing political partisanship especially during election campaigns. Other glaring cases of professional misconduct within the force, such as open corruption, extortion, deliberate mi-filing and mishandling of public complaints by officers to defeat the course of justice must be dealt with. It is necessary to state that many police officers, junior and senior, are heavily involved in the criminal underworld of businesses the reason many of them don’t pay much attention to their duty, are often absent from their stations or engrossed in settling civil disputes among civilians. As a starting point it may be necessary that Gen. Kayihura demands that police officers staring with senior ranks declare their wealth and other legitimate private businesses they may be engaged in, or else are asked to voluntarily retire from the police force. The main reason the police is involved with criminals and criminality as President Museveni recently stated is mainly for self-enrichment rather than protecting the criminals. The trail beaten by the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) especially coming from a rag-tag outfit shows that, together, we can rebuild the police force into an efficient, effective, competent, and respectable institution bound by the constitution and the laws of Uganda, and capable of serving noble causes.