Uganda Police is Rotten To The Core

Police with suspects

Police Chief Kale Kayihura's
Police Chief Kale Kayihura’s

By James Mugerwa

Cause to complain has always been there. But lately the police are acting like a bunch ofhooligans. There is little doubt that this is only going to get worse. I don’tknow whom to blame but I will say what needs to be done. As an ardent NRM supporter I would have loved to air my concerns internally but because of confidential reasons, I use the media.

Around Mengo Kisenyi police are arresting people without cause, they are arresting young men and women (women get released upon giving sexual favours), they are conniving with robbers, they give protection to illegal businesses, they extort money from bars, to let them operate after 10pm, the confiscate pool game balls ownermust pay to get them back. This area is under siege and torment from officers based at muzana and old Kampala frequently commanded by the DPC himself. Recently a young musoga boy only known as Yusuf (well known in the area) was arrested from a shop in where he had come to buy water at around 9.30pm, initially I challenged the officers as to why they had arrested him, they threatened me with arrest too, so I shut my mouth, I offered 5000, they said the standard fee is 20000 since they were about 6 of them. I did not have the money so the boy was taken.

Problem of policing.

There is no doubt that policing is indeed a difficult task, more so in Uganda. Kayihura has a dual role in his police, keep the opposition in check thus protecting the state and second is to do actual policing work (‘Protect and Serve’). He has excelled in quashing the opportunistic opposition who want power by force. He is on the other hand struggling with Protecting and Serving.


Police with suspects
Police with suspects

1st Major failure.

Failure tocontrol police deviance. This is does not mean corruption only but any behaviour that is unbecoming a police officer. Such behaviour is torture,extortion, negligence, neglect of duty, drunkardness, laziness, the list is endless. Such behaviour is what describes the police today and it caused bylack of internal controls and measures to ensure effective operation of policing duties.

Strengthen the Professional Standards Unit (PSU). The PSU is presently understaffed, underfunded, powerless and pathetically reactive. It is undermined by nepotism, tribalism, god fatherism (protection of high ranking officers of those being investigated). PSU officers are rank tied and investigating outranking officers is a major problem. They have no mobility and no equipment. This leaves officers to act with impunity because 70% of deviant action is not investigated, 80% of Ugandans do even know where and how to make a complaint against a police officer. Their recommendations for action are politicised or simply ignored. When I challenged the DPC old kampala about arbitrary arrests, he asked me ‘what I was going to do about it’? He told me not to waste time complaining because there is nothing anyone can do. He was right because that is what he is used to. In any environment or business,whenever there is no certainty of punishment, employees will weigh the chances of being caught in deviance and they will not be deterred to offend. This is what is happening.

PSU must be removed from the police control with immediate effect and placed under ministry of ethics, its management and control be retired and relieved of their rank respect obligations so that they can do their work without fear or favour. They should be able to operate from a proactive approach without necessarily waiting for complaints since the police is endemically corrupt.

2nd Major Failure is Management and supervision.

Police act like gangsters in uniform because they are not supervised, they know they can get away with anything because no one is watching them. Nowadays some don’t even don full uniform. This is more so at night.


Kayihura under his tenure has passed out several cadets, but most of them are in offices.Deploying well educated and well trained officers in the offices, pushing papers and getting fat on the other hand leaving Ugandans at the mercy of alcoholic, greedy thugs is wrong. These graduates should be able to serve a mandatory period on direct staff observation of how these officers operate onthe streets and how they relate with the public. They should be able to talk to LCs and talk to wanainchi and assure them of their safety. I recommend that every 5 to 10 officers at street level foot patrol be commanded by an ASP on a rotational basis. There is no point having these officers in the office when they don’t know anything about real policing. These officers should be required to take notes of every contact they make with a civilian and where possible,register such contact with the control room just to ensure that contact is notbeing made unnecessarily; thus resulting into deviance.


3rd Major failure is intelligence.

The current spate of murders in the city have been used as an excuse to use a ‘scorched earth’ operation. They come at night, surround people who are going about their business, they bundle them in trucks or walk them to police stations. They don’t screen them, they don’t interview them, they then slap them with all sorts of charges, they send them to luzira. They hope 1 in the 10 is a criminal. This is not policing, this is trial and error, this is torturing civilians that you are meant to protect, and this is a reminiscent of the operations in luwero bushes where hundreds were massacred. This is cowardice and it is un NRM and un humanity.


Uganda Police should move beyond reactive responses to specific incidents, officers should engage in systematic analysis of these offenses to find patterns of offending, repeat victims and  target locations. Utilising this intelligence gives them a variety of strategic interventions. First ,Intelligence Led Policing is dependent on two-way communications with the public. Indeed, a key strategy is to provide the public with information about activities and signs to be aware of and to explain what to do with information related to potential threats.


Second, strategy is the analysisof information and the transformation of information to actionableintelligence. The third strategy is the ethical decision making and a commitmentto individual rights.

All in all, policing isabout good relations with the public, that is what is known as policing byconsent. This 3rd strategy is what Museveni’s NRA used successfullyin the bush. It is a shame that Kayihura has failed to enforce the same, andinstead his boys are meticulously building bridges between the community, andthe community is withdrawing their consent. Every time you see riots gettingout of hand, it is not because they support Besigye or Lukwago, it is becausethe police is hated and Besigye gives them rioters an opportunity to expresstheir hatred. Crime problems are analysed according to the crime triangle withthe idea that interventions be designed to minimize the likely confluence of motivatedoffenders, suitable victims, or targets in the absence of effectiveguardianship.

Instead what our incompetent police are doing is holding the public accountable for the levels of crimes, it should be the opposite, the police must be held accountable for crimes. Kony did the same thing, he tortured killed raped those who did not support him. It is wrong.

Hon Amelia Kyambadde During the KCCA Evictions
Hon Amelia Kyambadde During the KCCA Evictions

Political hypocrisy

When Musisi tried to evict tenants at centenary park, we saw some hypocritical politicians pretending to care about ‘our supporters of the NRA struggle’. So who are these people in Kisenyi being tortured by the police, are they not our supporters??? Is this why they are second class citizens who deserved being tortured, desecrated?

I have a lot of respect for Kale Kayihura and indeed he is a true cadre, but he must start donning a police hat, start doing the real policing, start managing the police. He is incredibly too busy, he does not delegate, he has no time to look at the operational effectiveness of the police. He does not understand the importance of keeping civilians on his side. If he really wants good for the police and our country, he must start by strengthening the disciplinary element by letting PSU be controlled by the ministry of ethics and advocate for more budgetary supplements.

 The author is a Lawyer in London

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