Professionalise, not militarise the police

Last week, the Uganda Police Force recorded two significant events. One was that police chief Gen Kale Kayihura was given the nod by the Force’s authority for three more years to serve. This awaits presidential and parliamentary approval. The second was that a historic memorial lecture in honour of Uganda’s first black Inspector General of Police (IGP), Lt Col Erinayo Oryema, at Makerere University. But one thing that stood out was Gen Kayihura’s insistence to continue militarising the police. This risks giving the police unnecessary freedom to use force to override all other approaches to policing.
As he confessed, Gen Kayihura must be more troubled about moulding the Force into a modern, professional, service-oriented, and pro-people institution. This means the IGP must work hard to rebuild public trust in the Force. As it is, Uganda Police Force is one of Uganda’s least trusted public institutions as cited by the Inspector General of Government Report, 2008. The report also lists Police as the most corrupt government institution with only two of 10 Ugandans placing faith in the Force.
Unless Gen Kayihura corrects this perception, his efforts to create a professional, service-oriented, and pro-people and effective institution would come to nothing. As Kitgum District Woman MP Beatrice Anywar said at the memorial lecture the essential difference between the Force under Oryema and under Kayihura lies in professionalism. She said the Force under Oryema was better housed, smart, well-trained, motivated, non-political.
So, the real pressing task for Gen Kayihura is to review the police partiality and heavy-handedness in public order management involving the opposition or perceived opponents of the ruling party, NRM. Reports that police used own vehicles to transport protestors against former Premier Amama Mbabazi, relieved of his job on Friday, dims the Force’s image even more. It must be now that Kayihura moves, not to militarise, but review the Force’s damaged public relations since the 1960s, 1970s, and in 2009 Buganda riots, and walk-to-work protests in 2012.
Of course, Ugandans appreciate the long journey the police have travelled since 1906. The police today boast of own headquarters although accommodation and salaries for majority of officers remain largely poor. Also, while the Force have raised their numbers from 3,000 in 1986 to 41,000 officers now, this is still thin, given 830 Ugandans are served by only one police officer. This is way below the UN’s 2006 median of 300 police officers per 100,000 inhabitants worldwide.
Over all, Gen Kayihura must not militarise but rebuild public trust in the Force.

The issue: Image of Uganda Police Force
Our view: So, the real pressing task for Kayihura is to review the police partiality and heavy-handedness in public order management involving the opposition or perceived opponents of the ruling party, NRM.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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