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PAUL WAIBALE SNR: Three Cheers For Katumba Wamala

By Vision Reporter

Added 26th May 2002 03:00 AM

THE appointment of Major General Katumba Wamala as Inspector General of Police (IGP) constituted the opening of a new leaf in the history of the Force.

THE appointment of Major General Katumba Wamala as Inspector General of Police (IGP) constituted the opening of a new leaf in the history of the Force.

THE appointment of Major General Katumba Wamala as Inspector General of Police (IGP) constituted the opening of a new leaf in the history of the Force. The unique nature of the appointment is that a soldier, basically trained in military skills of administration and management, was picked overnight to take over control of the civil Police force. It was a decision that required the courage of a knowledgeable iron-hearted commander-in-chief to execute, given the ever-ready anti-Movement elements’ tradition to denounce every government move. Expectedly, therefore, a host of objections emerged when President Museveni announced the Major General’s appointment as IGP. Some of the objectors genuinely nursed the conviction that a soldier heading the Police Force would be a square peg in a round hole. But there were many others who were merely using that as a convenient excuse for unleashing misguided missiles against a presidential appointment. I pointed out then in this column that just as there were many differences between the way in which then Police and the Army operate, the two forces, both being security organisations, had a lot in common. It would not therefore, I argued, be difficult for Katumba to translate his military strategies into the field of Police tactics. And I was right. In fact many of those who criticised his appointment are now administering lavish praises on him for the good work he is doing. One aspect of insecurity that quickly attracted Katumba’s attention was the escalation of highway robberies in which millions of shillings were grabbed while the culprits escaped apprehension. The solution he prescribed was intensification of police patrol but this was not possible because there were not enough vehicles to facilitate the exercise. For Katumba, crossing arms and lamenting that he cannot fight crime because government does not have the money to provide the Police enough patrol vehicles was not an option. His option was to open yet another new leaf in the history of the Police Office. He launched a public appeal for funds to assist the Police purchase vehicles to patrol particular areas, and received a tremendous response. Several companies have made donations and many more will soon jump on to the bandwagon. When Katumba’s appeal reached Parliament it landed on fertile ground. The MPs honoured their status and coughed out a handsome figure of sh 60m which Speaker Ssekandi dutifully handed over to the Police chief. While Ugandans of goodwill were holding their thumbs up for Katumba’s ingenuity, Finance Minister Gerald Ssendaula, punctuated the glorious exercise with the awkward remark that Katumba had not received a licence from the Ministry of Finance authorising him to collect money. The obvious implication is that the minister was accusing the Police boss of being engaged in an illegal exercise. Paradoxically, the law relating to collection of funds from the public that I am aware of vests the authority to grant permits for the purpose of collecting funds in the Inspector General of Police. In Katumba’s case, therefore, he would have to grant permission to himself! I nurse the contention that the issue of Katumba collecting money without permission from the Ministry of Finance or from himself (if that makes sense!) does not arise. Katumba is not “collecting” money. He is only accepting donations, and I cannot envisage the existence of any law that requires someone to get a licence allowing them to accept donations. I, for one, invite the public to say, “Three cheers” to all the companies and individuals who have so far responded to Katumba’s appeal and pray that many morecome forward. Katumba has vowed to make himself available to receive donations, apparently at any cost. It is pertinent to point out that the fear that the Police will be compromised by having received donations from companies or individuals is highly hypothetical. How can the Police fail to prosecute MPs accused of a felony merely because they contributed to the sh60m package donated for the purchase of patrol vehicles? If anything, the offending MP could be ferried to the Police station on one of the very patrol cars purchased with money the MPs contributed. While Katumba’s appeal has attracted such fruitful response, what has been achieved is just a drop in the ocean. The volume of problems facing the Police force —poor conditions of service, lack of decent accommodation, shortage of operational equipment, and many others, is enormous. Solutions for the various problems have to be prescribed. The prescriptions might take a long time to implement, but Major General Katumba Wamala has decided to make a start. And like every start, his start has had to start somewhere. He has responded brilliantly to a crisis. Ends

PAUL WAIBALE SNR: Three Cheers For Katumba Wamala

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