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Why and how crime preventers is about common sense not legal sense

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Added 15th February 2016 04:47 PM

Law or no law, it is a matter of logic or common sense that the Police are numerically inferior to contain any wide spread outbreak of violence and as such it is in order that the Police seeks support from civilians to help them.

Why and how crime preventers is about common sense not legal sense

Law or no law, it is a matter of logic or common sense that the Police are numerically inferior to contain any wide spread outbreak of violence and as such it is in order that the Police seeks support from civilians to help them.

By Rene M Ndyomugyenyi

Lately there have been arguments and counter arguments about the legality of crime preventers. But to me I think legality of their existence should matter not.

Law or no law, it is a matter of logic or common sense that the Police are numerically inferior to contain any wide spread outbreak of violence and as such it is in order that the Police seeks support from civilians to help them.

In fact in 2002, the Parliamentary Select Committee report about violence in the 2001 polls cited on Page 181 numerical incapacity of the Police as one of the causes of the same. Furthermore, civilian involvement in security operations has been going on for decades, when LRA attacked northern and Teso regions various zonal civilian forces were formed such as the Amuka, Arrow Boys but I did not hear anyone complain about their legality, simply because it was common sense in a right of self-defence.

Misunderstanding the concept of community policing

There is a gross public miscomprehension of the whole crime preventers issue. The majority of the public does not understand that operational partnerships between the public and Police under the notion ‘Community Policing' is the future of policing worldwide. Cardinal principle being that communities dictate upon the Police how they wish to be policed. The Police builds a relationship of trust and confidence so that it obtains maximum cooperation and intelligence from the civilians. The miscomprehension is that these crime preventers issue has just been recently created for purely political/electioneering purposes. That is not true.  For example in 2006 elections 1,000 were recruited and trained in Mbarara district.  In 2011 elections, 700 crime preventers were recruited and trained in Kasese, in 2013 over 167 crime preventers in Arua were absorbed into the Police main stream.

This programme has been largely hailed as a success over the years and even supported by foreign democracies, for example, in 2005, USAID supported community policing initiatives in Northern Uganda where crime preventers were given basic legal training to combat social issues like corruption, gender based violence and human rights compliance.  Police are now less likely to ask bribes because of the communities they police are now sensitised and know some basics of Police procedure, cases of mob justice have reduced again because of the enlightenment; crime scenes are better preserved than before… etc.  So they have always been there, in fact they go as far as 1994 with the Matuga Crime Prevention Panel and it has simply been a matter of increasing the numbers for the elections and then a bulk of them will be decommissioned to a needs basis.

Is the Police politicised?

Many argue that the Police is political… but aren't we all? After all even the Bishops, the Fathers, the Reverends in their cassocks are preaching politics on the pulpit. Police cannot be unpolitical because they are the implementers of public safety and security policies that are initiated by Parliament (people representatives) through the ministry of internal affairs. As such they are fused with the political executive to ensure that law and order is maintained to protect lives and property. I think there is plain hypocrisy in this criticism, because on the other hand you have politicians who openly call for the overthrow of Musevenis democratically elected government by all means necessary, they call for defiance of police authority, police officers are killed or injured in the course of this defiance and then on the other hand the police is expected to sit arms fold and don't do anything at all. In fact I think it is naïve. What is important is the case of bias and impartiality; if the police is not acting in a balanced manner then clearly they should be reproached through the normal channels of political superintendence via parliament. And indeed there must be active perusal and if not full accountability/inquiry of offences reported against NRM supporters to achieve that balance, because NRM supporters are not angels. They have transgressed opposition supporters too.

Personally I think the problem is not the presence of Crime Preventers but instead the position of Uganda Police Force generally in the politics of this country. Like I have previously said, the opposition, particularly FDC has through propaganda successfully estranged the force from any nicety and instead married them to oppression. As such nothing good in the eyes of these armchair political pundits can come from the police, not even Crime Preventers. This prejudice notwithstanding the fact that they reside in high fenced houses with police guards on the gate.

So what if Illegal or Legal?

I think Ugandas security apparatus has got a largely unrivaled stellar history of defending this country from both internal and external aggression. But it has not always used constitutional means to attain this peace. The Congo, Rwanda, CAR and Sudan combat excursions were illegal but were deemed necessary and indeed there was resounding disquiet from the critics but at the end of it all those missions have contributed to the sustained total peace and quiet that is being enjoyed all over Uganda for the last 11 or so years.

Mine is not to entirely dismiss the ‘legality' arguments but even if we assumed that the dissent is valid within the constitutional construction or literal interpretation, we must weigh the ‘public interest' of the whole, where does it lie? Does the majority of Ugandans feel that Crime Preventers are necessary in order to protect their lives and property in the event of widespread election violence?? Based on the sheer number of the enrollment in this project which could be somewhere from 1 to 2 million, then this question is most likely to be answered in the affirmative. The second question then should be that, if indeed the State had tabled say a Crime Preventers Bill in Parliament, would it have been approved?? Again this question is most likely to be answered in the affirmative. Finally as it was the case in the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan missions, can Parliamentary approval be sought in retrospect to ‘legalise' the post event urgent need of Crime Preventers in the circumstances?? Again the answer is Yes.

Way forward

Instead of whining and whinnying about an obvious means to peace, the dissenters of crime preventers should ensure discipline and seek Civil Operational Intrusion or Oversight into the whole. It is not enough to register dissent and then going to church to pray for violence just so as to be heroically vindicated in its aftermath.  

The best we can do is to ensure that Police is providing adequate leadership and observance of strict discipline of the Crime Preventers. Their deployment plan should be made public and be given visible name tags if possible uniforms, each unit should be under leadership or a Commissioned Police Officer, they should not be deployed outside their respective neighborhoods, and they should not have any military fatigues or equipment on them. The Police Professional Standards Unit must be facilitated to increase patrols and integrity checks etc.  Whilst a bulk of Crime Preventers is of disciplined professionals and or educated or law abiding citizens, there are some crooks therein that we must watch out for. Otherwise I am sure we all wish to see the elections pass peacefully, whether legally or illegally. We should not complain about illegal national peace as if we shall welcome legal destruction of lives and property.

 The writer the executive director of the Corruption and Risk Advisory Bureau

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