The Uganda Police have denied media reports that it is harassing supporters of the country’s Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi saying it is only investigating reports that certain individuals associated with the NRM party are going around the country securing signatures, using methods that amount to criminality such as using bribery.
Some sections of the Ugandan media have been awash with reports of the police arresting supporters of the prime minister in the wake of the alleged power struggle between the latter and the president
This denial by police was contained in a press statement issued by the force on Monday and signed by the country’s Inspector General of Police, General Kale Kayihura.
In the statement, the police says those signing must do so freely without undue or unlawful compulsion or any unlawful influence through false representations, and, certainly, without money exchanging hands.
The statement adds that there are others still at large who the Police are interested in, and will have to interview.
Police has however given assurances to the NRM leadership especially the prime minister and general public that “nobody is being targeted for their opinions or because of who they support or not support.”
Below is the full statement;
The press continues to carry misleading stories that an ongoing investigation by the Police of certain persons associated with NRM party, who have been moving around the country collecting signatures is, in fact, harassment of supporters of Rt. Hon. Amama Mbabazi, the Prime Minister, and that the harassment is because of their political opinions, and inclinations. We wish to clarify that this is not correct. The Police is not targeting or harassing any such individuals, or anybody for that matter, let alone, because of their political opinions as claimed in media stories.
We wish to make it clear that, while our investigation is about criminal behavior connected with ongoing political controversies within the NRM party, it is not about those controversies. We do not inquire, and we do not have the mandate, and, have no interest in which political leader any member of the public supports or does not support. A person supporting this or that leader is really not our concern, as Police, because that is one’s prerogative. In any case, such matters are dealt with by the internal processes of political organizations, in this case the NRM party.
Indeed, Police is conducting investigation into reports that certain individuals associated with the NRM party are going around the country securing or attempting to secure signatures, using methods that amount to criminality such as using bribery or on the basis of falsehoods. The reports we are investigating are that those from whom they seek signatures are bribed with money, or misled as to the actual reasons the signatures are being sought.
For instance, the Police received reports of a group of people moving around collecting signatures from people in Kampala, falsely claiming that the intention was to take them to the President so that the longstanding promises the President are, at last, fulfilled. Others were paid money (actually bribed) ranging from shs 50,000 to 500,000 depending on their respective status in the NRM party. There are other reports of money being unlawfully paid (bribery) out by different teams going around the country.
While any person, is free to solicit and receive signatures for lawful purpose, those signing must do so freely without undue or unlawful compulsion or any unlawful influence through false representations, and, certainly, without money exchanging hands, unlawfully such as bribery. It should be voluntary on the part of the signatories. There are reports that some local leaders involved, actually abused their respective offices, which is criminal.
On receiving the reports, the Police, using standard methods, summoned and interviewed persons implicated. In most cases, the Police have received cooperation. It is, only, in very limited cases that arrests of such persons were made. Some of the persons have appeared as suspects, and others have appeared as witnesses. They are others still at large who the Police are interested in, and will have to interview. In all cases, the police officers investigating the case have acted with professionalism, respecting the rights of suspects, and treating them with utmost respect.
We wish to stress, and assure the leadership of the NRM party, and specifically, the Rt. Hon. Amama Mbabazi, as well as the persons implicated, and the general public that nobody is being targeted for their opinions or because of who they support or not support.
Indeed, expressing an opinion is not, by itself, a criminal offence and it is not correct to interpret the Police actions as harassment of someone freely expressing his or her views on this or that political issue. As we noted above, our focus is investigation of reported criminal behavior. If they are innocent, they have nothing to fear. They will be cleared. If they are culpable, however, they should be prepared to face the judicial process.
We want to assure the public that, in spite of the negative and diversionary stories in the media, we shall not be deterred. The Police will not be intimidated, or blackmailed and shy away from bringing to justice any member of public alleged to have committed an offense, their political “opinions” or inclinations notwithstanding.
Thank you for your understanding.
Gen. Kale Kayihura
Inspector General of Police