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Uganda Police Force: get back to the basics

Editorial

Uganda Police Force: get back to the basics

New Inspector General of Police Martin Okoth-Ochola

New Inspector General of Police Martin Okoth-Ochola

The recent sacking of Gen. Kalekyezi Kayihura as the Inspector General of Police, was long overdue, but as they say, “Better late than never”. Virtually, everybody has welcomed it; and it gives the country a few indicators on how to go forward. Indeed, that is what the new Minister of Security, Gen. Elly Tumwine, has advised.

It is difficult to enumerate the litany of improprieties that Kayihura committed in the IGP role, but they bordered on criminality. Immediately after he was axed, a section of Rwandese refugees filed a case against him in the International Criminal Court (ICC): that is how reviled he was.

In any case, a few recent  incidents may have finally urged President Yoweri Museveni to get rid of him. The death of three foreign European nationals in hotel rooms, in unclear circumstances, may have been the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

Undoubtedly it led to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to advice the State Department to warn American citizens on travelling to Uganda.  Last week, the advisory told the Americans, who do not have urgent business in the country, to keep away. And the advisory warned those Americans, who have duties to perform here, to be very careful in places where they go; and named certain places where they should avoid.

It cautioned that Uganda had no capacity to assure their security, especially if it could not even assure security for its own citizens. This was a scathing indictment of the Uganda Police Force and its boss, Kayihura.

Such criticism will obviously have adverse effects on other aspects of the country. One that would immediately be affected is the Tourism Sector. At the moment tourism is the major foreign exchange earner for the economy.

The State Department advisory even serves to warn all tourists who are coming into the country. At a time when the Ministry of Finance is gearing to borrow money, from wherever, to pay salaries for the Government workers, such a fall in the national revenue cannot be tolerated.

It is incumbent upon the in-coming IGP, Okoth Ochola, to shape up and restore the Force to its former image of capability and integrity. As a start, he should listen to a former Assistant IGP, Juluis Odwee, to restore the Special Branch, to do its work of investigating crimes. It used to be such an efficient department that it was even difficult to know its operatives, far from the Boda Boda 2010s. Obviously, he should attend to other departments as well to ensure efficiency.

One pointer to the messes Kayihura made was alluded to by Assistant Inspector of Police, Muhammad Kirumira, who was being hunted and haunted for trying to disclose the truth of that was going on in the Force. It is not enough to merely correct the administrative and operational facets of the Force, but its personnel, too. Criminal officers should be rooted out of the Force for it to regain its former good status.

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