By Patrick Nakabale
The Uganda Police Force (UPF) is celebrating 100 years of dedicated service to the nation. In view of the Centennial celebrations, we should focus on the role of the masses in enhancing Police’s capacity to carry out its duties of protecting life and property, safe guarding law and order and prevention and detection of crime.
The Police Force has flagged off a massive campaign of Community Policing as a key hallmark in the Centennial celebrations.
Community Policing is essential in bolsteringthe capacity of the Force to effectively carryout its mandate. Currently, the Police Force has got no more than 40,000 Police officers and men to police a total population of 37 million people.
Early this year, the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, released the 2013 Police report which notes that the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) has registered an increase in police presence to every sub county with a police population ratio of 1:705 compared to 1:1750 in 2007. However, this is far below the United Nations recommendation of minimum police strength of 222 per 100,000 people.
The same report notes a reduction in crime, but an increase in murder cases, which isn’t good news for a country which has positioned itself as a global tourist destination and regional investment hub.
Nonetheless, to its credit, the Uganda Police Force, in collaboration with other security agencies, has effectively combated and managed acts of lawlessness and general anarchy, which were more pronounced in the late 80s and early-mid 90s such as the sporadic city bombings by elements linked to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels.
Right now, the Force has enhanced its capabilitiesthrough acquisition of sophisticated equipment and professional trained personnelto combat modern terrorism.
However, the Police Force can’t effectively carryout its mandate without the active support of the masses being mobilised by the leaders for community policing. It is the masses, who are meant to do much of the policing work by being alert and vigilant andproviding the police with information about criminal activities and suspicious elements in communities.
The leadership institutions- political leaders, cultural leaders, religious leaders- are obliged to support the Police by mobilising masses in community policing. It is the leaders who could best sensitise the people on the essence of community policing including the shared benefits of concerted efforts and support for community policing.
To effectively achieve the above goal, the leaders, especially the political leaders from the various political persuasions, must castpartisan andsectarian interests apart and mobilise the masses for the good of the nation. We have heard it said by some leaders from the Opposition that the Police Force, especially under Gen Kale Kayihurais, has become a personalised force designed to serve personal interests of the NRM government.
Of course, the Police is part of the institutions of government (State) under the arm of Executive and it is mandated by the Constitution to serve the Government; which government principally includes the citizens of the Republic. We the leaders should understand that other armed forces belong to the people and are duty-bound to serve the people’s interests irrespective of which government/regime is inpower.
The persistence and increase in crime such as murders, robberies, kidnaps, terrorism, etc, as reported by the various reports would painta picture ofweakening community policing mechanismswhich essentially places the wanachi at the centre of reporting and preventing crime.
With the active participation of the leaders to mobilise the masses in community policing, the country will enjoy a significant reduction in crime which, thanks to the efforts of the Police Force, is now at 305 for every 100,000 of the population compared to 544 for every 100,000 in 2003. We could reduce crime rates to manageable levels.
The citizens have got a patriotic duty of defending their country as well as working with the Government to enhance peace and security. In the recent past, we have seen caseswhere the masses, especially the youth, have engaged in Nasty Street battles with the Police, which more often than not, has left scores of them killed and injured.
Today’s youth are more vulnerable to crime given the increasing rate of unemployment, poverty and frustration. Community policing would help the youth to channel the negative energy into productive usage.
The writer is the Youth MP-Central/General Secretary NRM Parliamentary Caucus