KAMPALA – We condemn terrorism with all its form and manifestations. No circumstance or motive can justify terrorism. Undoubtedly, the fight against terrorism should be conducted at all times in compliance with the Rule of Law, International Human Rights Law and Government commitments.
Community is all we are. The recent bomb blasts explosions in the outskirts of Kampala and on a bus bound for Bushenyi along Kampala – Mbarara highway have greatly affected us as Nation. Destroying lives, instilling fear and destructing property(s).
The community-oriented approach is the best strategy to fight terrorism. We cannot limit ourselves to the traditional military, security and law enforcement responses in order to mitigate the threat of terrorism. There is a need to pursue locally driven, cooperative initiatives, tailored to local context, to increase the effectiveness in the fight against terrorism. Community responses shall yield fast results.
Communities must adopt counter-terrorism strategies, objectives, policies and measures. Strong community cohesion is necessary. For instance, if communities in Kyanja where we had the bomb blast on Saturday had notified security agencies of big crowds who gather beyond curfew hours without strong security measures. This incident would have been mitigated. There is need for this comprehensive approach to security which will provide comparative advantages in combating terrorism. For instance, community policy as a strategy is very beneficial.
I also believe that strong community policing is necessary in the fight against terrorism. There is a need for clear collaborative efforts between the police and community to move effectively and efficiently identify prevent and solve the problem of crime. This multi-dimensional approach with multi-sectoral/stakeholder co-operating at all levels in order to meet security threats and challenges will combat terrorism. We become the watchdogs in our villages, we devote ourselves to detecting, prevent and fighting terrorism activities.
Community policing is part of a comprehensive human rights compliant strategy to prevent terrorism. This includes police-public partnerships between police, other public authorities, and communities for practice problem-solving. Among the benefits of community policing include increasing public vigilance and resilience, public perception, improve communication with the public on counter-terrorism, anchoring policing into respect for human rights and the Rule of Law, helping to identify and address community safety issues and grievances and facilitating timely identification and referral of critical situations.
The manner and degree to which community policing could benefit counter-terrorism depend on the level of trust and cooperation that already exists between the police and the public. In the case of Uganda, significant time and police effort may be required to rebuild public confidence, explain stakes in engaging and provide evidence of tangible benefits of such engagement for the community.
Like in all approaches there are risks in applying this approach which include overreliance on community policing, stigmatizing particular communities through selective engagement, securitizing their relationship using risks to individuals engaging with police among others. Without prejudice, intelligence-led policing and community policing are complementary but distinct approaches. The latter is beneficial and worth prioritizing now than ever.
Countering this phenomenon successfully requires societal support including civil society and businesses. The broader public and individual communities are stakeholders and partners in countering terrorism. I also emphasize public support, participation, and effectiveness. There is a need to locally tailor and locally-driven initiatives that draw on partnerships beyond traditional security practitioners.
Generally, these community policing tools/strategy requires sufficient planning and preparation so as not to undermine public trust and support anticipate and mitigate risks involved, provide adequate training for community police officers in their expected roles in preventing terrorism, preparing timely communication, clarifying and evaluating the impact of community policing efforts to prevent terrorism.
The author, Ms. Joyce Nalunga Birimumaaso is a member, leadership code tribunal.