EXCLUSIVE: Ugandan police struggle to clean its ‘rotten’ image amid allegations of abuses 

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Police sports tournament aimed cleaning public relationship/ Alleastafrica Photo

Police is now trying very hard to forge around ways to clean its tarnished image, by doing what they call ‘Community policing’ scheme.

By Nangayi Guyson, nangayi.guyson@alleastafrica.com

Kampala, Uganda- Police in Uganda has been on the international limelight for Human Rights abuses for many years since the country went into multiparty politics. The force has been accused of holding hostage the rights to freedom of expression, associations and assembly.

It has also been accused for brutal arrests of suspects, torture, unprofessional methods of arresting women suspects, taking bribes that fuels corruption, denying Human rights defenders access to victims, and harassment of opposition leaders.

However, police is now trying very hard to forge around ways to clean its tarnished image, by doing what they call ‘Community policing’ by organizing sports tournaments and other activities across the country to earn trust and love among the public to enhance the capacity to engage in problem-solving partnerships.

People shunned Sports tournament
People shunned Sports tournament

But this is proving to be something that will take many years to work out for them.

Uganda Police Chief greet Musicians at the shunned Sports tournament
Uganda Police Chief greet Musicians at the shunned Sports tournament

On Sunday last week, police in Kabalagala, a Kampala Suburb organized a two-day sports tournament where the Inspector General of Police, General Kale Kayihura was the chief guest. Some of Uganda’s leading musicians were called to entertain and all residents in this area were invited to attend and interact with police officers, with food and drinks were promised to be offered free by the force to those who will attend but residents shunned the tournament, citing lack of trust between police and the people.

Allegations of torture

Police beat up Besigye Supporters
Police beat up Besigye Supporters

Michael, who claims he was tortured and beaten almost to death in an enclosed detention center in Kampala for allegations of stealing Car tyres and is a resident in the area where Police held this sports Tournament.

“I can never go near or associate with any Ugandan police personnel even if that officer is my relative.  I wonder what our Police has become.” he said sadly.

“I  was falsely accused of stealing Car tyres and the policeman who lured me to be arrested was my colleague, just because they paid him  50,000 Uganda shillings , and the Guy handed me over to be torture.” Michael remembered.

As this Alleastafrica’s writer become curious and wanted to know more about the alleged detention torture safe Houses in Kireka,Michael, pleaded with him not go beyond this point and even expose his name.

“I was warned that if at one time i talk about or show the location of that torture house, they will come for my head and I will disappear forever” he said during an interview with Alleastafrica.

For that case, therefore, Alleastafrica did not verify Michael’s torture allegations though he showed the writer scars on his body which he claimed were from torture sessions.

However, allegations of harassments, torture, and detention without trial by Uganda police and other security operatives are very common among Ugandans who have ever been arrested.

Uganda Police  squeeze FDC opposition leader's breasts in an attempt to arrest her.
Uganda Police squeeze FDC opposition leader’s breasts in an attempt to arrest her.

Ugandan police’s public image started deteriorating more than a decade ago when the country went Multi party Political system that created open anti-Museveni politicians and activists. In a wake of trying to quell protests by these stubborn political activists and opposition leaders, Uganda police force slipped into violating Human Rights.

The actions of Uganda police have been condemned by a wide section of the public including civil society organizations, religious leaders, political parties and the international community among others, instigating the police to explain its actions.

Inspector General of Police, General Kale Kayihurawas summoned to appear in court to answer brutality charges laid against him and seven other senior officers after a group of police men, army and men in civilian clothes were captured by the media using sticks to brutally beat up Ugandans for cheering former Forum for Democratic Change Presidential Candidate Dr. KizzaBesigye as he headed to his Kasangati home after he was granted bail by the High Court of Uganda but he did not appear in court.

Women Rights Violated

As part of the efforts by Uganda Security organizations to repair their methods of handling women issues, security Organizations called for apublic lecture at Makerere business school but they came under fire when Justice David Batemwa, accused the Uganda Police force for lacking the will to fight violence against women and girls.

“I once saw a police officer arresting somebody by pulling her breasts and squeezing them. What type of training is this? People don’t know that the breast is a private part. We need to lead by example, reorganize the problem and try to solve it. It’s torture, cruel, inhuman degrading treatment, even if you are provoked by the cultural and political activists” Justice Batemwasaid.

He also laughed at the motivational songs sung by police thattalk about the burdocks and other body parts and said that violates the dignity of women and girls.

In this Video by NBS TV Uganda, Ugandans watched police officers arrest and undress Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) mobilizer Ingrid Turinawe. Am unidentified police officer is heard in the background saying “who cares arrest and lift her” she is seen undressed ,dragged and lifted to the police pickup truck.

Ingrid Turinaweis not the only Ugandan Woman humiliated by Uganda Police either. Others are opposition MPs NabilahNagayi and Fatuma, all from FDC party.

The Human Rights Watch world Report 2017 discovered that extrajudicial Killings and absence of Accountability has continued in Uganda. Security forces mainly the police continue to use excessive force while policing demonstrations and conducting other law enforcement operations.

It says that between February and April, inter-communal fighting prompted in part by local elections in Rwenzori region, western Uganda, led to the deaths of at least 30 people.

International community relaxes support

TheWorld Bank’s financial support commitment projects in Uganda decreased dramatically from US$664 million in 2015 to only US$105 millionin 2016. In December 2015, the World Bank cancelled funding for a US$265 million road-building project and suspended two others after allegations emerged that construction workers sexually abused children. On August 22, 2016, the World Bank suspended all new lending to Uganda.

Other International donors like the United States publicly raised serious concerns over intimidation and abuse during the elections by police and other security organizations but there no changes to the financial assistance.

The US provides over US$440 million annually to support Uganda’s healthcare sector, particularly provision of anti-retroviral medicine. It also supports the Ugandan army with at least US$70 million for logistics and training for the African Union Mission in Somalia and counter-LRA operations in the Central African Republic, among other efforts. Additional support goes to the Ugandan police’s counterterrorism efforts.

According to BenardMugerwa, DPC Kabalagala station, the criminals are mostly the youth and so police is using sports to relate with them.

(Editing by John Thiongo)

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