Embarrassed by videos showing officers at their most brutal, the police says it will use video evidence to net culprits who beat up Dr Kizza Besigye supporters this week.
The police announced yesterday that it was also investigating commanders who allowed junior officers a free rein to beat up people out to see or cheer former FDC presidential candidate Besigye on Tuesday and Wednesday. The commanders under investigation are within the Kampala Metropolitan area, which covers Mukono, Entebbe, Wakiso and Kampala.
The latest acts of police violence against civilians, the beatings, were caught on camera and videos that have since gone viral on social media, attracting strong public condemnation. On Tuesday, people were beaten as they lined Kampala roads to see treason suspect Besigye, who had just been released by the High court on bail.
On Wednesday police officers also beat up Besigye's supporters as they cheered and/or escorted him to the party headquarters at Najjanankumbi, where he addressed a press conference. Boda boda riders got the worst beating on Wednesday, with many abandoning their motorcycles.
According to sources, Gen Kale Kayihura, the inspector general of police, ordered the force's Professional Standards Unit (PSU) to investigate the implicated officers and charge them individually.
"General Kale was not happy [about] the way civilians were brutalized by police officers in public and has ordered serious investigations of those officers who were present at the scene," our source said in an interview yesterday.
The commanders under scrutiny, according to sources, include Andrew Kagwa, the regional police commander for Kampala east; James Ruhweza, who heads operations in Kampala Metropolitan; Kampala North regional police commander Wisely Nganizi and his deputy Geoffrey Kahebwa. Others are Wandegeya division police commander Moses Nanoka, and Captain Eric Kagina, the head of Investigations in Special Forces Command (SFC).
Speaking during a hastily-convened press conference yesterday, Gen Kayihura said all police officers "who used excessive force will be held accountable".
He said police "should have used water cannons to disperse the crowds instead of beating them".
He also said people in plain clothes, whether policemen or not "who beat people must be immediately arrested because the plainclothes officers' role is to gather intelligence, not to beat".
Kayihura apologized for his officers' brutality and damage caused but also faulted Besigye for defying the law through holding rallies and processions in the city. In his winding remarks, Kayihura ordered the Professional Standards Unit to investigate the beatings and what caused them.
All the implicated officers were present at the press conference. Before the press conference, according to sources familiar with the investigation, Kayihura first met all the implicated officers. The commander of PSU Fortunate Habyara confirmed yesterday that some senior police officers had already recorded statements in relation to the Tuesday and Wednesday incidents.
"Yes, commanders who were at the scene have recorded their statements and investigations have started," Habyara said.
Polly Namaye, the deputy police spokesperson, too, confirmed that the senior officers were under investigation.
"The commanders are known and have already penned down their statements. The video will help us to identify the low-ranked officers," Namaye said.
She said the police will review the video and the identified culprits shall be charged. This is not the first time police has promised to discipline its officers who have roughed up civilians in the course of their duties.
On April 12, masked men armed with sticks beat up people along Kampala road who were following Besigye in town. Police officers at the scene just looked on. After the incident, Abas Byakagaba, the commander Kampala Metropolitan, said the officers who were present at the scene would be punished but up to now none has been punished.
On May 11, a day before President Museveni's inauguration, police and soldiers beat up people, including journalists, in Kampala. None has been brought to book.
Source: The Observer