Independent opinions

A4C, Police & the Gov’t

A4C announced it’s reloaded demonstrations and so did the well known police commander Omara make an announcement that police was also reloaded to crush these demos. As part of their mission to keep law and order, police has the role of being present to ensure security of demonstrators, participators and any other person in the vicinity of the venue of the demonstration.
Let’s face reality here; Is there anyone who would expect Col. Dr. Kiiza Besigye to walk through town without attracting a very big crowd? Peaceful walks through town will definately disrupt traffic, inconvenience non-participants and crime (like pick pocketing, hooliganism etc) will take place. So the presence of police needs to be appreciated at every public gathering.
The motive of the opposition, too, can be questioned. Calls for citizens to raid police stations or carry out Tahrir-style demos by the opposition leaders also make the gov’t ‘intimidated’ by what might happen if things go out of hand making the gov’t use every means possible to stop or reduce the occurrence of these demos.
Chapter 29 1(d) of the Constitution of the Republic Of Uganda says , ’Every person shall have the right to freedom to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peacefully and unarmed…’
Question is; How far does the police’s role in regulating these demos go? Black Mambas, Kiboko Squad and other ‘militia’ have been seen on many occasions reigning terror on unarmed civilians. The police denied having any connection with these ‘militia’ but didn’t arrest them or stop them from terrorizing the citizens in full view of the police and public.

Article 221 of the constitution states that it shall be the duty of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces and any other armed force established in Uganda, the Uganda Police Force and any other police force, the Uganda Prisons Service, all intelligence services and the National Security Council to observe and respect human rights and freedoms in the performance of their functions

The streets of Kampala and every free field like City Square have been heavily deployed for a relatively long time now to prevent any demonstrations. Whether it is an act of intimidation or prevention of a crime or even crime itself, the constitutional right of freedom of assembly seems to have been violated. The new legislations like the Public Order Management Bill also seem to ‘add salt to injury’ and further regulate (or prevent) this constitutional right.

The police have been infiltrated by army personell right from the Chief Of Police, Maj-Gen Kale Kayihura who has been seen as a military hardliner close to state house and his independence may be debatable. The President being the Chief-In-Command of the armed forces further complicates issues since the police is an armed force and the president is a political leader. What can be done to ensure the neutrality of this police?

The police (and armed forces in general) have been given so many powers and a lot of authority which needs to be reviewed and reduced. Community policing should be emphasized much more. The powers that the police currently have should be shared with the general public so that we also have a say on how we can ensure our own security

We need to condemn militaristic tendancies that are exhibited by the police during demos. The harsh reaction in form of ‘kiboko’, harsh arrests and teargas that are used on unarmed civilians don’t solve the problem that the people are trying to put forward.

An independent (and private) institution needs to come in existence to specifically analyse every police move and keep it in check. This institution can work with the Human Rights Agencies and keep the police on its toes and hold each police officer accountable for his actions.

The police officers also need to be psychologically prepared, on top of the physical training they get, for these demos. Preparation that will encourage the use of non violent means to quell a demonstration. I am always amazed at the fact every police officer I meet on the street has his/her finger placed on the trigger and waiting for ‘action’!

The opposition too should realize the ineffectiveness that the riots are starting to exhibit and seek alternate means to fight for their cause. A reknown journalist, Mr. Nicholas Sengoba, argues that the demos have caused more harm than good and the organisors (A4C) should devise other means to push forward their campaign.

The gov’t should also encourage it’s officials (Ministers, Police Chiefs, Presidential Advisors, and even the president himself) to join the social networking sites (facebook & twitter). This is because whereas many people may not get the opportunity to personally and physically meet these important people, the networking sites brigde that gap. Any query to one of them can simply be pushed forward through these sites and relevant action taken.

Finally, let us all take part in governance of our country by identifying errors and providing possible alternatives to the problems we may face. Let us interact more with our leaders and give them our honest opinions so that wherever they may be (parliament, caucass meetings or even casual chats with their fellow leaders), they may be able to discuss the general feeling being felt by the public.

The constitution lists one of the objectives of the state as being based on democratic principles which empower and encourage the active participation of all citizens at all levels in their own governance

@jobaze (on twitter)


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