KAMPALA – For a very long time Local Defence Unit (LDU) personnel has been in the spotlight over rampant human rights abuses and violations most if which have climaxed after the outbreak of COVID-19 in Uganda. Since 1987 LDUs remain operating extralegally in our communities despite not having a law providing for the existence.
During this time of lockdown the LDUs together with other security agencies have been charged with the enforcement of presidential directives in the country amidst the lockdown. However, while enforcing the government’s Covid-19 measures, LDUs have allegedly beaten, arbitrarily arrested, and shot at boda boda riders and pregnant women, among others, the most recent being Emmanuel Tegu who was a student at Makerere University pursuing a Bachelors of Sceince and Animal Production.
Through the past couple of months many people have lost their lives or dear ones because of the reckless behaviour of the LDU in Uganda, videos have been circulating and this continues to truamatise people in Uganda as these people are supposed to protect the Ugandans and not oppress them.
Once ‘security actors’ become predatory, using rough justice and brutality, gangs and vigilante extremist groups will form claiming to ‘protect’ people especially the unprivileged. If criminals are everywhere, violence becomes unbearable
Brutality and Other Extrajudicial Killing
Whereas there are no reports of politically motivated killings by government forces the acts of LDU personnel that sometimes uses excessive force, resulting in deaths has led to conclusions of these deaths linked to political assasinations, for example, the death of Dan Kyeyune who was a supporter of People power.
Whereas the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda prohibits “any form of torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment, LDUs have made it a habit to people harshly and inhumanely many of who have been injured and others lost their lives. Since the outbreak of the Covid19, we’ve had 27 deaths as a result of the brutal and inhuman acts of LDUs and police. LDUs were also reported to have taken away people’s food while enforcing the curfew during lockdown.
Before lockdown LDUs were reported to stage different roadblocks at night and extort money from people travelling at night. Many have attributed to these acts of LDUs to the low pay of 200,000 Ugshs only that they are paid per month. Due to this small pay they are forced to engage in the other illegal acts.
The brutality by LDUs is not new because it has existed since 1987 when the LDUs were introduced to keep law and order in rural areas. The heights of this brutality was seen during the disarment of cattle keepers in Karamoja in the late 1990s, since then the LDUs have led a life of brutalising Ugandans and have caused harm and injuries to many.
The writer is a Lawyer and Advocacy and Communications personnel at Youth Line Forum