In a stinging letter, a retired police officer accuses police chief Kale Kayihura of, literally, killing the police as a civilian law-enforcement agency.
Herbert Rheno Karugaba, who retired at the rank of senior assistant commissioner of police, writes that Kayihura has taken the Uganda Police Force on “a roller-coaster” of partisan policing never been seen before.
“You [Kayihura] have turned the UPF from a civilian law-enforcement agency into a highly militarised goon squad specifically aimed at controlling the grey area between what constitutes ‘crime’ and ‘politics’,” reads the June 12 letter. “In this effort, opposition to authoritarian rule has been criminalised and any opposition to the NRM is now considered ‘unpatriotic’ and thus ‘crime’ has been politicised.”
The 11-page letter is addressed to Kayihura and copied to the minister for Internal Affairs, the Attorney General and the chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC). Karugaba says his letter was prompted by an invitation extended to him to attend a dinner in commemoration of 100 years of the UPF which was held at Serena hotel in May.
He declined the invitation partly because he is not impressed with the conduct of the force. Karugaba, a classmate of Kayihura at Makerere University Law School in the late 1970s, joined UPF in 1980 and served for 18 years. He rose to become director of the then Criminal Investigations department (now CIID) in the early 1990s.
His distinguished career saw him serve a two-year stint as Director of Operations in the Inspectorate of Government. When he retired from the police, he embarked on a career in international criminal justice that took him to the Rwanda genocide tribunal as an investigator. He then served two years in Sudan as a UNDP senior programme specialist assisting that country’s police force.
In 2009, he took up a job as an investigator with the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He returned to the country in December last year. Karugaba lists eight key areas where he thinks the force has gone off course.
He says the UPF now relies on fear as opposed to building good relations with Ugandans and that policing, particularly for those who oppose the NRM, is “harsh and brutal.”
He says human rights violations are committed by UPF with impunity and there is persistent lack of respect for court orders and court processes by the police. Karugaba notes that the force has developed close relations with criminal groups such as the “Kiboko squad” and the “Black Mamba,” which raided the High court in 2005.
He writes that because the force has become partisan, recruitment, training and promotion is now based on allegiance to the ruling NRM. He writes that many of the cadets from the police training school in Masindi graduate half baked. He writes that once he saw an assistant superintendent of police on television, saluting with a left hand.
“Since I came back eight months ago, I have attended at least two weddings of these police officers and I was embarrassed that the parade party did not know proper drill procedures,” he writes.
Karugaba also touches on the urgent matter of the welfare of low-ranking police officers, saying it leaves a lot to be desired.
“The living conditions in the police barracks are horrible. The buildings have never seen any renovations since their construction during the colonial era and the hygiene situation is very threatening due to leaking water pipes and overflowing sewerage lines,” he writes.
The former police boss says the traffic department of the force has become a “money collecting machinery.” He says they impound vehicles with the aim of extorting bribes from the owners.
“Every time I use public means, I listen to the comments of fellow passengers and I also observer the deportment of traffic officers. They nowadays receive monetary bribes in full view of the public, something I last saw in Lagos, Nigeria some 25 years ago,” he writes.
On his letter he attaches the code of conduct for law enforcement officials which was adopted by the UN general assembly resolution 34169 of December 17, 1979. Article 2 of the code states that in the conduct of their duties, law enforcement officials are supposed to respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold human rights of all persons.
In conclusion, Karugaba writes that his observations are not influenced by any political persuasions and he attaches an opinion he authored in The New Vision in August 1992, where he noted that the police must be at the forefront of protecting human rights.
“The UPF will have to prove its legitimacy through effective operation, often through direct engagement with citizens on the ground. Political partisanship on your part and the growth of crime in Uganda have in many cases undercut the development of democratic policing by ensuring more militarised responses to disorder,” he concludes.
We were unable to get a comment from Kayihura, who could not be reached by telephone. Neither were the police spokespersons available to comment.
Source : The Observer