KAMPALA – A new study has called for a need to tame the rate at which the Ugandan police force is being militarized through the appointment of serving army officers into the force.
Many times, the appointing authority who is also a retired General has named the army officers in different capacities in the police force. In 2020, the court also okayed the appointment of Brigadier Sam Bakasumba, Brigadier Godfrey Golooba, Colonel Jese Kamunannwire and Colonel Sserunjogi Ddamulira by the President to serve in Uganda Police Force as Chief of Joint Staff, Director Human Resource Development and Training, Director Human Resource Administration and Director Crime Intelligence, respectively all assigned a rank of Assistant Inspector General of Police, something that was challenged by Lawyer Male Mabirizi.
The most recent case scenario is the 2022 appointment of Maj Gen Geoffrey Tumusiime Katsigazi as the new Deputy Inspector General of Police who was still replacing the late Lt. Gen Paul Lokech who died in August 2021.
Now, the study by NETPIL – Network of Public Interest Lawyers wants clear reforms to regulate the military penetration into the police force which experts say has many negative impacts, especially on human rights.
Speaking on the study titled Militarization and military capture of Uganda Police Force – the Impact on human rights and the rule of law, Dr Adrian Juuko Executive Director, Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum (HRAPF) noted that the law gives a lot of powers to the president in terms of governance which is a challenge in its context.
“He is the one who appoints the Inspector General of Police and others in different police departments and this is problematic in that the police are overseen by someone in the military. Our president is a military General and police might not be something he likes and he thinks of using the military in solving everything.”
According to him, in Uganda, the police have been captured by the military. “What this means to an average Ugandan is that what we know as civilian policing is not going to happen anymore. Military engages to kill, that’s not how the police is supposed to engage.”
“So if we amend the law such that police leadership is not selected by the president, this would make more sense and would solve the current militarization of police,” he added.
Dr. Sylvie Namwase – Lecturer – Department of Law and Jurisprudence School of Law, Makerere University noted that the two-month study conducted within Kampala and some parts of the Eastern mainly findings out that militarization on its own may be necessary but within the Ugandan context, the clear mischief is military capture.
She noted that whereas the police might be militarized to a minimum extent to respond to high-risk security contexts, the study finds that those scenarios have also been further hijacked through military capture to perpetrate political policing.
“Through this, we have seen an extensive violation of human rights for instance, during riot situations where a large number of Ugandans have been killed, disappeared, and tortured without any justice.”
She said that even when the constitution gives powers to the president to appoint and dismiss police command, it doesn’t provide an actual framework e.g. the basis of the appointment.
“We don’t know what qualifications IGP and Deputy should have, we don’t know for how long – there is no statutory formal legal standard that speaks for their term but still the law doesn’t say on which grounds should they be dismissed. So the study calls for formalization and democratization of that process through proposals to have IGPs appointed by the police service commission with clear grounds.”
Data proposed formalizing units within the police that are mandated to do riot control by providing specific standards that they are supposed to comply with, giving them less lethal weapons, and putting in place strict accountability measures.
It also recommends frequent human rights training, oversight of joint police and military operations, and the creation of civilian institutions that are authorized to oversee the functions of the police and to entertain cases coming from victims of police brutality, among others.
The study says that Ugandan citizens are responsible for creating the kind of police they want and are constitutionally mandated to do so.
The UPDF Spokesperson Brigadier Felix Kulaigye dismissed the findings noting that “I totally disagree with the so-called military capture of police. The IGP is a career police officer, and the Deputy is, yes, a General but it’s not the first time. When Idi Amini took power in 1971, the IGP was Lt. Col. When they conducted their research, they should have seen that as well. This is not about capturing but rather about helping various government agencies to execute their work.”
About the qualifications of the IGPs, Kulaigye said that they are well stupulated in the Police Act.