Behind police blues: Criminal elements within the force, which give it a bad name, are not there by chance
By Fr Anthony Musaala
The demonisation of the Uganda Police Force has been underway for some time. It is yet another distraction from the main difficulty Ugandans face, that is, the real systemic shortcomings of a dysfunctional regime which has lost its ideological moorings.
The NRM regime insists on its high-sounding vision of ‘transformation’ of the nation but the deformation of state apparatus seems a necessary by-product and the police force is now in deformation mode.
Meanwhile tribalism, nepotism, militarism, a stalled and seemingly fake economy, corruption, impunity and abuse of rights and freedoms, are normalised as the price Ugandans must pay to achieve the dream of ‘middle-income status’.
The police are woefully but deliberately underfunded and used by the regime (as in previous regimes), but now also by anyone who can pay them, to inflict violence, murder and any number of crimes on the public. The police force is rapidly becoming a mercenary force but seems more sinned against than sinning.
Police have lost morale and are seriously compromised by poverty and ready to do anything to get anything. Their ‘middle-income status’ is very, very far off. They seem to be left behind, except for very few.
Gen. Kale Kayihura was appointed to preside over this deformed police mess. He is a trusted NRM cadre but with a true ‘mission impossible’.
He cannot possibly satisfy his bosses ‘deformation’ programmes, meet the bottomless pit of the genuine needs of police officers, and also clean the public image of the police at the same time. The public are now ‘baying for Kayihura’s blood’, so to speak, as he continues to blunder in the solving of serious crimes.
Therefore, the civilian police force is being pushed into a very tight spot but more importantly so is Gen. Kayihura. He cannot possibly deliver what is required by his boss, namely the ideological alignment of the police force to NRM ideals, which incidentally did once include making security forces pro-people. It seems that even in that task he may already be compromised by the Mafiosi within.
The criminal elements within the force, which give it a bad name, are not there by chance. They are highly connected to the regime and their purpose is to dent the police image as a punishment for not conforming to state ideology.
The police force though is a hard nut to crack and Museveni has so far not succeeded in its total politicisation. This is partly due to the ethnic mix with northerners and easterners dominating, and westerners and southerners only recently muscling in and jostling for positions. Purely political appointments to the police force have a way of backfiring, when officers at the bottom withdraw their support.
The police are politically an unreliable, undecided, unstable mass who are totally self-absorbed and for that reason less easy to infiltrate and manipulate politically.
The late police spokesperson, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Andrew Felix Kaweesi despite having offered himself to the NRM and allowing himself to be positioned as the acceptable face of increasingly brutal policing, had a modicum of humanity, which though already compromised, still shone out amidst some of his grosser misdeeds and pronouncements.
Kayihura is more legalistic and uncritical of Museveni’s more violent modes of operation. He is sometimes tactful and cogent, but more often than not politically partial and seemingly unprofessional.
Politically, and perhaps in other ways he is unlikely to survive, although his ethnic and cadre credentials will keep him in the inner circles of the regime for a good stretch.
The police are going to continue being sacrificed on the altar of Musevenism, and they know it. They need to mobilise within themselves and develop ethical leadership and resist manipulation, mafianism and the deception of the bankrupt ideology of the regime. They need to begin to overtly side with the people in the struggle for true democracy so that in the inevitable change of guard which will come they do not suffer alienation once again.
Although there are some mutinous pockets in some of the lower ranks that may not be ready to side with present leadership in a crisis, their moves are nipped in the bud by sound intelligence.
Ironically the army has a better public profile than the police, since they are less visible, yet ideologically they are closer to the regime than the police. The army is, therefore, better catered for and better disciplined under its highly paid Generals.
Fr Anthony Musaala is the Vicar General, Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church in Uganda (ICAB)