On Wednesday President Yoweri Museveni gave an appraisal of the state of security in the country, allaying the public’s fears and outlining what will be done to strengthen the security situation.
The president’s speech came in the wake of the arrest of former Inspector General of Police General Kale Kayihura and several police officers. Allegations of everything from running protection rackets, murder, arson, drug trafficking, gun running and illegal repatriation of refugees are reported to be of interest to the investigators.
And this is only what we can deduce from recent press reports.
Twenty years ago Justice Julia Sebutinde was tasked with investigating the police and making recommendations for its running into the future.
"During the nearly two yearlong inquiry, not unlike what the above officers are being investigated for, the emerging stories caused sharp intakes of breath around the country. When she was done with her work the police had been revealed as an organised criminal organisation that instead of fighting crime was not only abetting it but its officers and men were actively involved in criminal activity...
The report should have prompted a clean out of the police.
So how come the same tendencies seem to have resurfaced publically nearly twenty years after Sebutinde delivered her report to the appointing authority?
Either, the criminal elements were not entirely weeded out and continued with their nefarious deeds, inducting new recruits in to their evil ways and perpetuating the criminal gang nature of the police.
Or a new criminal element overlaid or replaced the old system, its power growing to the point that it harboured grander ambitions than just shaking down traffic offenders, abetting highway robbers and protecting drug traffickers.
It is scary to think that with the near fourfold expansion of the police since the Sebutinde report, these criminal activities spread out from Kampala and went countrywide.
It is safe to say that the breakdown in police discipline – like many other things in this country, has its roots in the Idi Amin era. Based on the British constabulary the force was designed to enforce the will of the colonial government. Brute force was their default mode. With a breakdown of law and order and inadequacies of budgets the police would find it easy to prey on the very population they are sworn to protect.
The NRM initially focused on putting down insurgencies in east and northern Uganda, left the police to its own devices. With the rebellions put down it was time to turn attention to the police. But we seem to have chosen the path of least resistance, continuing with business as usual instead of general and systematic overhaul of the force. As a result the force has never been purged of its colonial hangover nor its criminal elements and the culture has co-opted everyone who has come in touch with it and like a drug made the drunk with a sense of their own importance.....
It did not help that the police is operating in a situation of endemic corruption, where everybody has a price and allegiances are in a constant state of flux.
Abraham Lincoln once said that if you want to know a man’s real character give him power. With enhanced numbers and budget the police has just become more of what it actually is.
Which brings me back to the President’s statement on Wednesday.
The speech was interesting more for what he didn’t say than what he said.
In his speech the president outlined a series of measures, 10 in number, that would improve the country’s security situation. The measures among which were improved registration of the arms in security agencies, electronic chips embedded in vehicle number plates, installation of cameras on roads and highways and the building of a modern forensic lab, are all medium to long term measures.
Apart from banning boda-boda riders from wearing hoodies, there were no short term measures to beef up security.