By Patrick Kagenda
The Uganda Police Force a few years ago celebrated 100 years of service. Fred Enanga, the spokesperson, spoke to Patrick Kagenda about their key milestones and future plans. Excerpts
What is the historical background of the Uganda Police?
The Police came into existence on May 25, 1906 as a constabulary under British colonial rule. It was supposed to be pro-people and for the people, but was established to champion the interests of the British.
It celebrated 50 years – the Golden Jubilee in 1956 and was supposed to celebrate 100 years in 2006. But due to a number of reasons including the national elections at that time, the preparations for CHOGM that came in 2007 followed by the public order challenges and again the national elections in 2011, we were not able to celebrate our 100th anniversary. Now that at least we feel that there is some normalcy, we feel it’s the opportune time to hold our celebrations.
What are some of the stages the force has gone through over the last 100 years?
The British Police was established by Sir Robert Pill, who is referred to as the ‘father’ of the Police. Ideally, the British Police system was supposed to be pro-people and for the people whereby the people are actually involved in the policing activities.
But when it came to the establishment of the Police in all the protectorates, it was different. For them, it was actually a force that was repressive, basically there to protect the colonialists and their interests. You can see it from the establishments they made – there was the Railway Police to protect the railway line and transportation of merchandise, and where most of the police stations were positioned.
We came to the 1960s when power shifted after independence. The natives took over the leadership of the Police force with Erinayo Oryema becoming the first inspector general of police. Yet, the police system remained the same as it was basically answerable to the politicians and the interests of the government.
That went on until the 1966 crisis when there was a fallout between the UPC government and Kabaka Yekka, which eventually led to the abolishment of kingdoms. What followed was a police that was quite unfriendly to citizens, more forceful and brutal.
By 1971, the Uganda Police had about 18,000 officers but by the time the NRM came to power in 1986, the number had declined to 3,000 because most of the officers fled.
We started seeing a lot of changes after 1986 as there was more recruitment of cadet officers and professionalization set in. Much transformation happened including attracting professionals into the force from almost every region. We see our future as a police force that is actually more participatory and more involved with the public because we are expanding and enhancing the community policing system.
The population is growing, but we don’t see the force recruiting to match the challenges posed by a growing population?
There is a marked improvement but because of some challenges we can’t recruit massively because of financial constraints. But the Ministry of Public Service has put in place an arrangement whereby we recruit in phases. For example since CHOGM in 2007, we have recruited on three occasions. This year we have recruited 4,500 probational police constables and 700 cadets who are now undergoing training.
Ahead of the elections in 2016, we may have to recruit another 4,000 constables as well as 500-700 cadets. There has actually been marked improvement because there was an increase from 8,000 in 1986 to 41,000. Thus officer to population ratio has improved from one police officer to every 1,734 people in 2005 to one to 790 in 2014. Of course by international standards we are still way behind but it’s not as bad as it was.
What challenges has the police force encountered along its evolution and how has it addressed them?
One of the major challenges arose during the professionalization process of the Police because it involved a budget component. Because of the budget, we have logistical challenges whereby you don’t have the right equipment. We are supposed to have a fully-fledged forensics laboratory. In our transport section we still have shortages in the number of motorized equipment like motor vehicles, motor cycles. Then if you go to ICT you find we need the right equipment even for the lowest level (police post) – at least a computer with an Internet-connection.
Today the police is said to be heavily militarized and is headed by an army general. Is this merging of the Police and the Army a good thing?
I don’t know why people really have that perception. In the Police, a director is the highest rank. The positions of IGP and DIGP are appointments. The appointing authority can actually appoint anyone including a civilian or a retired civil servant etc provided he/she has the credentials to head the institution.
During the colonial period and after independence, Police was headed by military officers; so it’s not a new phenomenon. The army just like the police is also a disciplined force. The emergence of violent crimes whereby thugs were using arms to cause a lot of harm to innocent civilians and the rioting meant that we needed to build capacity to deal with these situations.
We created the Rapid Response Unit and most of the culprits we harvested were actually former combatants. So we need a force that is capable of tackling hardened criminals who take up arms against the Police. But generally where there is rule of law, we are not required as the Police to carry guns but we are forced to do so because of the response that comes from the society.
The IGP has called for a name change from Uganda Police Force to Uganda Police Service. What is the rationale behind this?
The Police force of today is different from that of the colonial period, which was really a coercive force. The Police force today is more pro-people and we listen to the public.
Today, the public has taken the lead role in policing and guiding us. We are at a position where we have embraced the public and working closely with the people, which means we are no longer using coercive means but are involved with each other.
We are more of national than forceful. Internationally, in other countries you will find they are called police services or national police – the police are pro-people. That is the direction we are now moving to. The timing would be good that after 100 years we should revamp the image of the Police.
Welfare in police remains pathetic with poor housing, poor pay, etc. What plans are there to improve welfare?
Welfare is a bit of a challenge now as the numbers have grown yet we actually need these numbers in as much as our population is growing as well. Much as we acknowledge the challenges we have as far as welfare is concerned, we have come up with avenues to address it.
We have a directorate in charge of welfare and production. Though still a young directorate, it has come up with programmes to enhance the livelihoods of the officers.
We have a duty free shop, which is offering construction and building materials to police officers at friendly prices compared to the open market. We also have the Exodus SACCO, which was established by the IGP and is also offering loans at very affordable interest rates far much lower than the commercial rates. We are encouraging our officers to borrow money so they can start income generating activities.
On the medical side, we have free services available at all police health units. On the education front, we have plans to support the education of officers’ children from primary to secondary level. We want to reclaim all the police schools so that we get children of officers to benefit.
What plans are in place to counter the growing cyber crime rates?
At one stage, I was heading the Economic Crimes Department and we created an intelligence unit. We had the ability to track down serious cases of electronic fraud.
At CID headquarters under the economic crimes department, we now have a division of economic fraud with a cyber crimes desk. At Interpol, we also have a cyber desk that also handles those cases at an international level. Even counter terrorism has a cyber desk.
The activities of all these desks are coordinated under the directorate of ICT. There are plans to have a cyber crimes intelligence directorate and when the Anti-Money Laundering Bill becomes law, there is a provision for a financial intelligence agency.
This agency will play a crucial role in monitoring all funds that are reimbursed or released, and all the donations that come in. It will actually monitor at the apex level the financial transactions that get to move in the financial sector.
What do you have lined up for the 100 year anniversary celebrations?
We want to launch the celebrations on May 25, 2014 with a marathon at Kololo in memory of the late John Akii Bua also aimed at raising funds in support of acid victims. We have made many achievements and we want to take stock of them, as well as the failures. We are using the celebrations as an opportunity to re-invigorate the community policing system so as to promote strong partnerships with the public.
We want to use this as a chance to improve our image to let the public know that there is more to the police than the bad side of it. We would like to pay tribute to all the former police officers who have sacrificed a lot including their own lives to make the police what it is.
We are looking at the next 100 years and asking what type of the police we want to have. We want a police that is world class, a first world police, which is ICT-based. We have oriented our police offers and managers to use this celebration to rebrand/ re-energize the Force and to let the public appreciate the police officer of today.