The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda enacted in 1995 mandates the Uganda Police Force to protect life and property as well as preserve law and order among other functions. Article 221 of the Constitution further directs the Uganda Police Force and any other police force to observe and respect human rights and freedoms in the performance of their functions.
In recent times Ugandans have seen the Uganda Police Force blatantly violating human rights and freedoms when it comes to matters to do with Dr. Kizza Besigye and other members of the Opposition. Judging from the various occasions that Dr. Kizza Besigye has been arrested by the Uganda Police Force and detained in various police stations across Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono districts but still without any charges brought against him, it would not be farfetched to suggest that the Uganda Police Force derives immense pleasure from arresting and detaining the former Presidential Flag Bearer of the Forum for Democratic Change.
According to Uganda’s electoral commission Mr. Yoweri Museveni won the Presidential election by 60.8% while Dr. Kizza Besigye, his closest challenger came second with 35.4% of the vote. Having ran a successful campaign in the period leading up to the February 18th 2016 General Elections, the Forum for Democratic Change rejected the result of the vote, made efforts to contest it and have since called for an International Election Audit of the entire electoral process.
One need not look far and beyond for examples of the Uganda Police Force’s deliberate violation of human rights and freedoms in Uganda. Upon rejecting the election results, the Police Force went on to detain Dr. Kizza Besigye in his home from February 20th 2016 claiming that he will only be released if he denounced his Defiance campaign. It should be noted that Dr. Besigye was detained in his home without any Court order to that effect. He was detained in his home, which has never been gazetted as a detention facility yet no efforts were made for a period of more than 40 days to produce him before a Court of law to allow the due process of the Criminal Justice system to take its course.
Interestingly, Dr. Kizza Besigye was detained by the very Police Force that complained against his actions, the same Police Force which investigated the genuineness of his alleged crime and also went ahead to prosecute him and sentence him to house imprisonment.
Even though the Police Force leadership went on to justify their illegal detention of Dr. Kizza Besigye as a preventive mechanism, purportedly meant to prevent him from committing crimes, it is not a surprise that these crimes are privately known to the Police Force alone and not any Court of Law in Uganda. It is of little wonder therefore that the Police Force, with tail between its legs, bowed to pressure from within and beyond and called off the illegal house arrest of Dr. Kizza Besigye yet they had vowed to detain him until he denounced his Defiance campaign.
Tuesday 12th April 2016 marked the second day when Dr. Besigye left his home for the Forum for Democratic Change Headquarters, Najjanankumbi. He sought to attend party prayers that are organized every Tuesday of the Week as a means of peaceful protest against the NRM regime that is accused of staging a coup against the people of Uganda by openly rigging the February 18th 2016 general elections.
While on his way from the party premises in Najjanankumbi, Dr. Kizza Besigye decided to pass by Crane bank head offices on Kampala road to do his personal business transactions. As he was inside the bank, some Policemen went ahead to cordon off sections of Kampala Road and divert traffic flow to other roads. Then all hell broke loose when men with masked faces dressed in black were seen wielding batons, beating and maiming innocent motorists (Boda Boda riders) who were using the same route as Dr. Kizza Besigye and confiscating their motor cycles. These men were carrying out their brutality in full view of the Kampala South Deputy Regional Police Commander Geoffrey Tayebwa presumably with his command.
From the pictures that were taken of this incident, one of the men is seen clad in ORIGINAL S.W.A.T Classic boots. These boots are available to returnees that serve as security guards in Iraq and Afghanistan. The mean looking men in black are believed to be Iraq returnees who have since become jobless because most of the recruiting American companies have so far lost their bids down range because of the US Forces’ decision to scale down on troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. This decision affected the Department of Defence and State contractors that were recruiting guards from Uganda thereby reducing the existence of their military camps and that is the reason why most of them are back in Uganda in big numbers.
I have always said that over 20,000 or more of these young men and women that are all over the country can be a blessing or a danger to our society because the regime so far has failed to debrief them and create a database with information pertaining to their location, expertise, special skill and competence in order to assess the value they can add to our national security.
It is worrying that now these same men are seen to be used as a rent out squad to beat and maim the Political opposition supporters and Ugandans who are innocent. These Third Country Nationals (TCNs) as referred to by the US Department of State and Defence contractors are now an issue of debate in the public domain and a matter of national security. If it is true that these men have been reduced to a rent out squad as seen on Tuesday then Ugandans need to speak out loudly on their deliberate illegal actions and what they might become if not regulated by the law.
The events surrounding the actions of the men in black pauses some questions that need to be answered by the Police Force. For instance if Dr. Kizza Besigye is at Crane Bank, why stop traffic flow because you don’t want the public to interface with him?
Is Dr. Kizza Besigye an Outlaw? Has he lost his right to associate with other Ugandans? Has he lost his right to move in Uganda?
Why are the men in black and all masked beating up unarmed civilians in the presence of Uganda Police Force without being arrested?
Has Uganda lost its official Police Uniform to men that are abusing the law in those uniforms?
Has the Uganda Police Force relinquished its duty to preserve law and order?
As expected the Uganda Police Force denied the use of the masked men, which is quite regrettable. Reacting to questions on the masked men, the Police Force made the following statement:
“I would like to disassociate the police from the actions of those individuals…. We don’t support such actions. We condemn people taking the law into their own hands,” Mr. Abbas Byakagaba said yesterday in a press briefing at Kampala Metropolitan Police headquarters.
Following all these denials then one should question whether the Uganda Police Force has abdicated its constitutional mandate to maintain law and order. There is little doubt now that unidentified goons in black look to be part of the Police which is why even as they clobbered unarmed civilians nothing is said and done to stop them from abusing the law.
If brutalizing dissenting voices is the new strategy the regime has employed to deal with the Opposition, this strategy might backfire because it is being implemented without any Safety and Threat analysis. The strategy might explode to levels that law enforcement officers may not be able to control and regulate.
Ugandans will not always look on as they are being beaten day in day out and their property grabbed in full view of the Police Forces who should be protecting them and their property.
How far can a man dig and bury himself in the stone ages? How can one deny that times have changed and people are free to enjoy their God given rights and freedoms to associate with others and express their opinions? How can a regime that claims to have restored rule of law deny that we are treading on a very dangerous path as a country where violation of human rights goes on unhampered?
These acts of impunity must come to an end or else the Citizens might reclaim their dignity and respect. These actions and omissions of Police Forces involving gross violation of human rights and freedoms are uncalled for and as a Ugandan who cherishes rule of law I will not let rule by law take the day. This is my country and to all those who are instilling fear in the masses as a weapon to conquer and occupy, my humble appeal to you is restrain yourselves for Uganda deserves better!