The making of a Uganda police officer

Every time recruitment of police officers is published in the media, tens of thousands of youth armed with academic credentials gather at several centres.
The young men and women are drawn from across the country and it is within them that the next police leadership and law and order enforcers are to be got.

However, all – if they successfully meet the requirements – will have to go through a training school for at least nine months in a transformation that is aimed at testing their will and ability to perform the duty of a man and woman in uniform.

To the training school

Upon arrival at the training school, trainees are asked to display their belongings and the instructors rummage through them until they are sure that nothing disallowed in the school is left in.
Communication gadgets, knives, extra clothes and drugs are confiscated before the trainees are sent to the dormitories where they stay until verifications are done. The verifications include that of academic papers and medical tests.

A former trainee recalls that during that time, instructors pamper everyone.
“When we complained about little sugar in our porridge, the instructors would rush to add us more,” the officer recalls.
In a week’s time, a team returns with results of medical and academic verifications.

Mr Moses Kafeero, the commandant of Police Training School Kabalye, Masindi, says students with life threatening illnesses are discontinued.
“The training is too rigorous for students with medical and physically challenges,” Mr Kafeero says.

The remaining group now embarks on a long and tedious journey to transform them into police officers. It is at this time that they are shifted from dormitories and each one of them is expected to erect their own make-shift huts, also called Manyatta.

On the first day of the training, a police trainer says, recruits are told to form groups according to the regions they hail from.
Instructors then pick a recruit from each group and they form a group called a section, which is the smallest group of about 9 to 10 people.

Four sections make a squad four squads create a platoon four platoons form a company and then four companies make a battalion and four battalions form a brigade. Each group has its leader. It is in these formations that each trainee will remain until the end of the training.
On the first week, the trainees undergo orientation to inculcate the spirit of police in them.

“In Force, orders aren’t debated but implemented contrary to civilian life. It is the first thing we instil in them,” the trainer says.
Gradually, recruits respond to orders, a process called combat hardening.
A few weeks into the training, a whistle is blown and ‘strangers’ take charge to give them a tour of the training school, described as introduction to the camp.

“Nothing can erase that day in the brain of any police officer,” a police sergeant says. It is the first difficult training.
Trainees are rolled in mud, grass and sand. They usually suffer bruised ankles, knuckles and knees turn red. The trainees are required to crawl through thorny shrubs with speed powered by a torrent of strokes. Hesitant and dilly-dallying trainees are lashed on the bums. Even amid tears and sweat, the trainees are required to sing out loud.
“Salty sweat roll down into the open wounds and you feel like you can’t do it anymore,” the sergeant says.


Instructors aren’t done yet. They shepherd their flock into ditches with neck-high muddy water and soft clay.
An Assistant Superintendent of Police recalls, “I jumped into the water and one of my gumboots got stuck in the clay. I tried to retrieve it but when I looked back and saw another squad running to jump, I gave up”.
A half-day training without a meal pushes the trainees to the limit. Fear and despair confronts many. Hundreds of trainees, whose ailments have for years eluded the instruments of medics, come to light.

After “touring the camp”, Mr Kafeero says weak trainees desert.
The trainees are now already into military training, which covers around 30 or so days of sleepless nights, less food but 18 hours of exercises.
The trainees’ day starts at 4:30am with a road run then a three-minute break at 7am for breakfast. After breakfast, exercises continue up to lunch time.

A former trainee says: “As we prepared for lunch, we were told to run another 10-kilometre distance to pick lunch couples and sprint back to line up for food”.
Often times, the last group arrives when the meal time has passed. Though exhausted and tired, the lazy group waits for the next meal.
Police spokesperson Fred Enanga says the food is often served when it is extremely hot but you are required to eat it in just two to three minutes.

“An officer is expected to carry out his or task as fast as possible in any circumstances. There isn’t a better way to instil this discipline in an officer other than food,” he says.
After lunch, the exercises continue up to 10pm then singing starts till dawn.

One of the most feared instructors of the 2010-11 intake was Inspector James Waigo.
IP Waigo and bats had one thing in common they enjoyed most – the cover of darkness.

ASP Thomas Opiga, a trainee in 2012, writes in the police training school magazine that IP Waigo would order male trainees to remove their shirts and he would pour cold water on them in the cold night.
“The importance of this was not known by the trainees by then but all was for a very important aspect of endurance training,” ASP Opiga wrote.
Later on, instructors would show reliance and give trainees time to get warmth near the fireplace and five minutes of rest. Already captured by exhaustion, when they lie down, sleep overpowers them.
Instructors then collect weapons (wooden rods) of slumbering trainees and throw them on fire. When they are totally burnt, an instructor wakes them up.

Trainees then grope for their weapons around them in vain. Instructors separate trainees with their weapons from those without.
Those without their weapons are rolled in mud, ordered to frog march and to some extent, caned. The punishment is so severe that some collapse and are admitted to the police training clinic. Witnesses to the punishment never dare to neglect their weapons on duty.

Singing patriotic songs continues up to 4:30am. The same day programme will last until 30 days are done. No time for bath, washing or hygiene is allocated but appearing on the Monday parade with overgrown hair or dirty uniform is punishable.
“Creativity was key. Instructors wanted no hair on the head yet we were not allowed to go the salon. We had to use razor blades to cut the hair. Some trainees didn’t know how to use blades so they would inflict injuries on heads of their friends,” a former trainee says.
Tough conditions would force many trainees to flee the camps and desert, others seek to have rest by claiming that some of their organs are damaged.

Police trainer Ayub Omoding says in his article in 2012 that a handful of trainees claim to be related to powerful state agents so that they are favoured.
“But does a trainer need to know where you come from…?” Mr Omoding wondered.

By the end of the 30 sleepless nights, each recruit has shade off more the 30 per cent of his or her weight. Long days working in the sun turns everyone dark skinned and eyes brown but trainees at this stage are getting used to the exercises.


Instructors then make a U-turn. They give trainees time to rest. Exercises are ended at midnight then everyone goes to bed. Calm returns to the camp. Several trainees even sneak out of the school and have fan in nearby trading centres. They don’t know what is awaiting them.
At an unannounced date, the chief instructor blows a whistle for the trainees to make a parade.

Every trainee is immediately ordered to pack his or her belongings and set off for what is described as a route march.
Trainees depend on dry ration and water as meals for days.
Mr Enanga, who also went through the same in 2004, says trainees walk nonstop for at least 100 kilometres.

After reaching a place away from the human settlement, they are ordered to dig trenches on rocky places, which will be their camp for days.
Instructors say the route march is meant to train recruits on how to deal with guerrilla warfare.
At the school, students who had sneaked out for fanfare return only to find an empty camp. Their fate now lies in the hands of school commandant.

As their colleagues settle in the new camp, news of an armed group ascending to the camp, is announced.
“Everyone must now hide in the trenches. Power bombs were fired in the camp. Live bullets were fired at the trenches some would hit the rocks to create power sound and we couldn’t even lift a head from the ground,” one of the recent trainees recalls.


He claims sometimes bullets kill trainees who don’t heed to the orders to keep in the trenches. Others are captured by the armed group and taken. Then they are jailed for days.
Instructors will order their students to escape from fire and run to another safe place – the training school.
A police sergeant says a day later, they are subjected to a marathon to cover more than 60 kilometres.
“Those who don’t reach the finishing line are automatically out of the training,” he says.

The successful trainees will end their four-month military training with practice at the range. The remaining five months will be classwork in law, human rights and intelligence training.
But during Mr Andrew Kaweesi’s reign at the Police Training School, Kabalye, Masindi District, in 2007, he introduced trainee’s internship before they are passed out.

It is after the pass out that they join the mainstream force and are deployed across the country.


The course is residential and you are required to report with the following items.
• Orignal academic documents i.e Transcripts, Aanced (U.A.C.E)and Ordinary level Certificates (U.C.E)
• Two inches mattresses
• Blanket and 2 pairs of bed sheets
• Civilian clothes
• Sports wear
• Canvas shoes
• 2 pairs of gumboots
• Six (4 quire)ounter books and 12 pens (blue and black )
• Pocket money
• One slasher
• Four passport photos
• Three photo copies of academic documents, ID, LC letter.
• Original academic documents for verification.
• Identity cards
• Radios
• Mobile phones
• Watches.
The following items are prohibited
• Weapon
• Cooking utensils
• Sharp instruments
• Illegal drugs

At the school
On arrival, you are required to report at the Quarterguard for screening and verification.

During the first week at the training school, the staff will orient you in the geography of the school.

The school provides accommodation for both male and female trainees.
Trainees are responsible for hygiene of the school throughout the course. To observe this, there is routine inspection by the school administration.

The school provides hot meals to all trainees at different serving centres as may be directed by the staff.
No trainee is allowed to buy food from food vendors apart from those registered by the school.

Dress code:
The school provides training uniforms to all trainees.
Trainees must be dressed in the training uniform during contact hours and sports wear during physical training.

Social events:
The school organises leisure activities to occupy trainees during their free time.
Trainees will be encouraged to form cultural groups, drama groups, football clubs and any other entertainment activities within the school that can promote unity among the trainees.

School property:
Upon the receipt of any school property, a trainee signs for it and it must be returned as may be required.
Every trainee must be cleared by the school before leaving the school after the completion of the course.

Discipline is the guiding principle of every trainee at the school. Each trainee will be given a copy of school rules and regulations to read through and sign.
Every trainee is obliged to abide by the school rules and regulations and whosoever goes contrary to them, heshe is punished accordingly.

Training programmes.
The training programme is conducted into two phases. The theory held at the school and the practical attachment in the field. During attachment, trainees are under the command of the DPC’s monitored by the in-charge operation of the school. The expected discipline from the school will continue and the school rules and regulations must be observed.

Mode of movement
The order of movement on the school compass initially is running and matching in organized manner.

The school puts provisions for trainees to exercise their religious beliefs. However religion should not overrun the school programmes.

Leaving the school
No trainee is supposed to leave the school without written permission.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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