Kudos to Police on crime, but beware of Political Actors

Saturday, February 29, 2020

It may still be too early to extend some appreciation to the much-maligned Uganda Police Force, now headed by Okoth Martins Ochola (OMO), for scoring modest success in curbing crime waves hitherto characterized by violent robberies, murders, and kidnaps among others that had gripped the country since 2017. With the changes effected in command two years ago, installation of CCTV cameras within the Kampala Metropolitan area, and joint efforts from other security agencies, the police are becoming more effective in arresting suspects, investigations and arraigning suspects before courts of law. These measures, including not having many reports of widespread torture, illegal and unlawful detentions, although still nascent are restoring public confidence in policing. The log in the police’s eye is widespread petty corruption that pass for tips on roads and at police stations.

Indeed, the motives of the criminals are twofold, foremost, some individual or are organized gangs motivated in the actions for quick financial or other material gains. Secondly some of them have political dimensions to create a state of fear within Uganda to undermine President Yoweri Museveni and NRM’s credibility as guarantors of peace, security, stability and tranquility in three decades. According to police information, the cordon and search operations in Kampala against markets for stolen items especially mobile phones, electricals, and passenger motor cycles that are stripped into spares parts, have curtailed robberies of these items, which are sold mainly within Uganda. In just one month, police using CCTV, has recovered thirty-five stolen vehicles and returned them to owners.

Across the country, crime rates, including road accidents usually caused by reckless, bad, unprofessional and indisciplined road users seem to be declining on account of police efforts. Intensified cooperation within the region alongside better investigations aided by CCCTV to track suspects and forensic support are cracking criminal networks, and helping prosecution. Hopefully, syndicates of the big organized crimes of money laundering, drugs and underworld of business will soon too be dismantled. One of the biggest achievements was the quick apprehension and bringing to court the suspects in the Maria Nagirinya kidnap and subsequent murder on 28, August 2019, and there hasn’t been another kidnap. The other, is last’s week’s arrest of the main suspects in Sheik Masud Mutumba’s murder in Bugiri, which according to police was due to a land wrangle by one Bazil Bugoya who travelled with a gun from Kampala and returned with it.

However, efforts in effective policing are being undermined by the rising incidences of hooliganism by elements in the opposition aided by sections of the media to distract in the hope of enlisting public sympathies against the police portrayed as crude, high-handed, and arbitrary. The last two months have witnessed a spike in public confrontations between the police on one side, and selected batches of opposition supporters on the other in what appears to be well-rehearsed drills for the forthcoming elections in which many of the contenders are being written off. It is becoming clearer that through peaceful election campaigns some opposition elements know that they will not attract much media and public attention, let alone have a compelling, credible and lasting message that can win the presidency, parliament or local councils. 

The backdrop to many of these incidences are that some political actors have been breaking laws and rules with impunity, well-knowing they will be handled with soft gloves, attract media, and public sympathies. Political processions have broken many traffic rules, disrupted traffic, businesses and their gangs assault police officers on duty including forcefully removing police barriers.

Opposition elements working with gullible journalists and media have been behind concocting and spreading false information on the tragic deaths of Zeegy Wine and Rita Nabukenya who both died in motor cycle accidents. They claimed they were murdered by government in the hope of gaining lasting public sympathies. Often, the opposition assemble the gullible media and journalists ahead of a planned confrontation with the police, and sadly, the police officers not being the wiser in this mischief, repeated many times over, have deservedly taken the public flak. This handiwork, explains why the media has swallowed and regurgitated the false narratives in Zeegy, Nabukenya, and Dan Kyeyune’s demise.

But also, being none the wiser, these deaths have to a limited extent also exposed opposition mendicity and trickery in trying to exploit unfortunate incidents they may not even be familiar lwith. As the 2021 elections draws closer, there will be many and increasing cases of fabrication, calculated and deliberate spreading of false information, news and disinformation to create anxiety, mistrust, hate and even aggression against government, its agencies and high-profile officials to discredit the eventual election outcome in 2021. There is also an emerging pattern between when opposition leaders return from foreign trips, and resurgence in riots in Kampala, implying perhaps, that they are staged for accountability purposes.

Much of the ongoing political racus is also aimed at scaring away the soft-hearted tourists and foreign investors and fail Uganda in building an economy that provides critical employment to the growing number of youths leaving colleges.