It needs no introduction to the hall of infamy and tragedy what a police force at war with its charge can do. Neither is it enough now, as before, to use the defense of all rogue systems that a few “bad apples are at fault. This won’t do either in Nairobi or Kampala.
After the recent images of Police men riding on a Police van beat supporters of Besigye not once but twice on Television, we are past shock as we descend to red-faced anger.
People being battered like animals as if there is no human language and behavior to rely on to get the same result.
A police force that kills its own is at war with society. It sadly also announces that the society in question is at war with itself.
The debate on Police brutality isn’t new, as we have seen Parliament debate the issue all week, from Tuesday, Wednesday, now Thursday plenary sitting as MP Kivumbi informed the Speaker he would present a detailed motion on the matter.
As Parliament dwells on who beat who, who needs to resign, here are my two cents on what the Uganda Police can do to avoid situation such as Kenya or worse;
First; create truth and reconciliation commission inquires, step it up using the LC1 system as a justice system, to reach the grass root and seek to amend the relationships between the public and Police.
Through the Uganda Parliament, Government can establish an Independent Police Oversight authority, just like the one in Kenya and South Africa.
IPOA would be empowered to check Police excesses as an Independent body, mandated by an Act of Parliament to provide for civilian oversight of the work of the Police.
The authority in Kenya is facing challenges in carrying out its work due to lack of trust from the Public and Police heads. With an empowered IPOA for Uganda, the country would clearly avoid a Police crisis.
A Commission of inquiry into corruption in Police, similar to that of Justice Ssebutinde to make recommendations it deems critical to professionalize and turn around the Police Force, even though it was a limited success, it should return.
Looking at the Human Rights Watch report, Stella Kabasinguzi, who had left her house briefly, seeking bread for her three children. The soldiers approached her home, and Kabasinguzi immediately raised her hands in the air. A soldier shot her, in front of her children. She died on the way to the hospital.
The report also investigated 13 separate incidents and documented several in which security forces shot live ammunition through the closed doors of peoples’ homes, killing those inside. For example, military units, some accompanied by police forces, deployed to Ndeeba on September 10th ordered people on the roads to return home. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that uniformed soldiers, some wearing the red berets of the military police, began to attack people with sticks and batons to clear the streets.
It would be in the Government’s interest to come up with a clear legal Policy that shows the relationship between the army and the Police. So it would be easy for a body like IPOA to hold each accountable separately.
The Policy or law could have a clause on seconding military generals to the Police since evidence suggests little improvement in the rights record and potential to drag military (which is perceived as more professional) into the same trust issues.
As evidenced in videos by media houses on plain clothed men beating up civilians, the Police Force should also come up with a clear Policy on who wears uniform and who doesn’t and when are they acting as officers or are they off duty.
Similar to Uganda, Kenyan police have a poor Human rights record and regularly top the list in surveys of the least trusted professionals
Looking at a report from Amnesty International, Uganda Police over time has been voted as the leading Human Rights offender,
Police brutality and restrictions of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly increased. Attacks against activists, journalists and other media workers continued with impunity.
Another step would be to start by change of the name, drop the term “Police Force” all these have a negative connation to them and imply infringing on one’s freedom.
It is a gigantic task, but would be rewarding both to the public and Police at Large.