Solution. What must be done to salvage these institutions from underfunding, poor facilitation, run-down structures, demoralised and low paid officers has been subject of several reports, writes Ivan Okuda.
President Museveni recently took to the legislative assembly to reassure the world that Uganda is still safe and his government has capacity to guarantee the safety of lives on Ugandan soil and their property.
In a speech to 286 of 455 Members of Parliament that lasted over an hour and portrayed him as a victor and champion of armed struggle, the President laid out a 10-point road map to restore sanity. Uganda, he said, became peaceful for the first time in 500 years in 2007.
For a man who came to power in 1986, and was ushered to the cloak and dagger games of State management by rebellions in succession, attaining full time peace for the country in 2007 came after a 21-year hold on power.
The President appears in panic mode as the political risk and cost of an unmanaged security situation is high. He cleared his security chiefs and their line ministers to appear on a television interview at once to reassure the country. After delivering the State-of-the-Nation address he asked for more time by way of a special sitting of the House.
Media houses have also been cautioned from focusing on or exaggerating the challenge at hand. Museveni’s curriculum vitae other than his mastery of the art of sticking around for a tad too long is decorated with wars at home and in the region and his handlers like minister Bright Rwamirama say “anyone who thinks they can lecture Museveni on security doesn’t know him”.
Sadly, the killers who brought misery to families in Masaka and Wakiso; the recent kidnaps, assassinations of Muslim clerics and government officials aren’t interested in lectures, they mean business and unleash violence.
That begs the question on the health of our security agencies. The Uganda Police Force, Internal Security Organisation, Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence, External Security Organisation, Uganda Prisons Service and others are peopled by men and women whose everyday task is to ensure security.
But how far can they go?
One of the most important roles of the police is investigations and it derives pleasure from booking suspects in and securing convictions. At the heart of execution of this function that goes to the root of policing is the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) headed by Ms Grace Akullo. Over the years, CID has had its own share of troubles ranging from resources of financial, equipment, human skill nature to morale of the personnel.
Twenty nine years ago when officers such as Asan Kasingye enrolled to Uganda Police Force, CID had minimum standards of recruitment. Intellectually gifted students from different institutions of learning were earmarked from different institutions, trained in the field for two years, put on an arrangement where they understudied a detective and thereafter went for specialised training.
At specialised training they were taken through theory and practice of different areas of study like the Basic CID Course, investigators’ course, prosecutors course, scene of crime officers course, homicide, economic crimes course among others.
“What CID and police in general suffered under Gen Kale [Kayihura] was that we lost on that, we neglected that process of thorough a selection of CID officers based on merit and ability,” a source in police who requested not to be named told this writer in an interview recently.
Even more, mistrust and mutual suspicion among senior leaders of the Force took a toll on the institution, draining it of energy and morale among its rank and file. Ms Akullo, for instance, built a steel wall between herself and Gen Kayihura with whom she didn’t see eye to eye.
The President didn’t seem to do much to salvage the situation and watched on as palace politics and turf wars for supremacy paralysed operations at the directorate.
As the intrigue wars hit fever pitch levels, Kayihura navigated his way out of the cobweb by creating Flying Squad which ordinarily would report and be responsible to the CID boss, but in practice only saluted him and worked as a stand-alone unit.
Sources say sometimes as with the investigation on murders of women in Wakiso, Flying Squad and other units the IGP created to circumvent a belligerent Akullo did the leg work as the top cops in charge of homicide only followed progress in the media and corridors of police offices.
‘Police was buried’
When President Museveni casually told Parliament, “police was buried” and they were resurrecting it, he perhaps knew how grave the situation was.
To resuscitate the CID, renew confidence of its officers and rejuvenate their morale will require the new leadership with an old broom that knows all corners in IGP Martins Okoth-Ochola and a new broom determined to sweep best in Brig Sabiti Muzeeyi, going back to the drawing board and getting their act together.
It might, sources say, also require them looking into Ms Akullo’s own track record and determine if she must remain at the helm of CID or make way for new blood to breathe a lease of new life to the institution.
By the time the President went public about the level of infiltration of police by criminal gangs, the Force had reached a point of no return. It now seeks to get back on its path.
That will involve investment in modern equipment, a 360 degree information management system that allows for tracking of each case from every part of the country, an initiative that has been rendered dysfunctional since its launch a few years ago, sensitising the public about scenes of crime management to avoid tampering with evidence and mounting pressure on the executive and parliament to better facilitate the Government Analytical Laboratory rendered derelict by inadequate funding yet central to investigations.
For instance, an experienced investigator told this writer, “At the murder scene of Ibrahim Abiriga we should have had an incident room where officers report and keep any exhibit of evidential value but what we have these days is 999 police patrol being the first to report to the scene of crime instead of scene of crime officers.”
Incidentally, funding for CID in particular and police has grown alongside the national budget but officers continue to grapple with deficiency of basics like scene of crime kits and means of mobility. It is paradoxical that as the police budget grew to almost half a trillion shillings, CID officers continued to crane their necks for resources.
Mr Asan Kasingye says, “I think to be fair to Gen Kayihura he tried the best he could to address the over whelming challenges he found and focused on getting the basics right. He bought and ensured there were many cars, police presence on ground was improved and perhaps he hadn’t put his head together to say how do we better facilitate CID or even traffic police but in lieu of the resource constraints measured against the challenges that needed to be addressed, he did the best he thought had to be prioritised.”
Of course a chunk of money also got devoted to public order management that was all but regime security protection.
What needs to be done
Other senior officers at the police who preferred to speak on condition of anonymity implored police, moving forward to put in place a sustained collaboration between CID and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions so that the country has prosecution led investigations, a model popular in countries with fairly more resources.
Joan Kagezi, the deceased lead prosecutor of the 2010 Kampala twin bombing suspects (now convicts), used this model as she went with police to Busoga sub-region to probe killing of Muslim clerics there.
CID officers working with state attorneys helps sharpen the focus of the investigations and assures the state higher yields at prosecution as it presents a case that ticks the boxes persuasive enough to secure a conviction.
That would, in the ideal, require Uganda to have an academy for CID officers to guarantee quality of investigators and renew skills of the experienced ones who must adapt to technological advancement.
To achieve these and more, however, including implementing the 10 measures the President announced at Parliament would require a team of talented, professional and well facilitated officers vetted through a merit-based system.
An officer of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) at the rank of Brigadier Sunday Monitor interviewed on condition of anonymity said, “ISO as an institution has remained solid. It is intact even if you can point fingers at some rogues. It just needs to tweak technology and look into skilling of its personnel.”
Intelligence organisations like ISO, ESO, CMI must work hand in hand with investigations (police) and so the quality of the other institutions is pivotal to the health of police.
The role of ISO is to detect, prevent and curtail enemy subversive activity by spying on the secret actions, intentions and plans of real or perceived potential foes. That means they must penetrate and infiltrate the cells of criminals gangs or even foreign governments working to economically sabotage through subversive groups like some non-government organisations deployed to serve their interests.
To achieve that ISO requires resources, facilitation and morale among its officers. Unfortunately, a source at the organisation told this writer in an interview, “We don’t really have money to be able to do all that so we do the most we can and go home.”
Sunday Monitor has learnt for instance that of its District Internal Security Officers and Gombolola (sub-county) security officers, only a handful in the entire country have cars or motorcycles, let alone fuel and operational allowances readily available to follow up a lead from a person of goodwill who volunteers information.
The pressure on ISO to facilitate its officers has been worsened by creation of new districts which means more staff, more means of mobility, operational allowances, all of which remain on the wish list of the director general.
In fact, our source shared, when the National Resistance Army (NRA) took over power in 1986, it incorporated a dual system of intelligence gathering by ISO, partly due to lack of sufficient resources and largely due to the ideological configuration of the NRA tuned to having people (wananchi) as an integral aspect of their own security.
To shoot two birds with one stone DISOs and GISOs became public servants whose identity was an open public secret. That allowed for people to easily bring forth information while the officers who work under the DISO and GISO do so covertly at operational level.
“Under [former] president [Milton] Obote even top UPC functionaries didn’t know who the spies of government were. Their structure was efficient from top to the lowest level and that made it efficient although it is a costly system,” our source said.
Having DISO/GISOs as public figures compromises their own security and makes them susceptible to compromise but NRM also needed it to be able to harness its political mobilisation and beat Opposition elements to size.
Our security agencies, according to knowledgeable sources, are also working at cross purpose at the lower levels which impedes their ability to fight crime and keep Ugandans safe.
Different sources in the police and military interviewed for this article noted that at the national level, the President has particularly managed to bring sanity by ensuring the different security agencies walk the talk of unity of purpose.
He chairs the National Security Council (NSC) which has line security, defence ministers, service chiefs and recently the NRM secretary general although the same has never been approved by Parliament as required by law.
Under NSC is the Joint Intelligence Committee which is spread further down to the District Security Committee also broken down to Joint Intelligence Committee and lastly Sub County Security Committee chaired by the local council chairperson three with the GISO as secretary.
“There is little coordination at the district level down wards whereas at national level there is order and coordinated movement, everyone works on their own outside that which means there are many gaps down there which if not fixed leaves the population vulnerable,” our source shared.
Uganda, according to security experts, enjoys a strength some more developed societies can only marvel at. It is the goodwill of citizens to volunteer information, the kind of cooperation that made the defunct Special Branch work as it had agents, some not paid a penny, who gave information to the state willingly.
That is an asset whose only nutrient is public confidence in the institutions of security to protect them and use that information for public good. Sources say we have lost ground on that and police has its work cut out restoring the same.
“The tragedy of Abiriga’s murder was not that he was shot because people get shot everyday worldover but that people ran away from the police. That means public confidence has gone so low that we can’t rely on our own people to get us information,” the source said.
To get our act together, Uganda must, conscious of its limited resource envelop, cut its coat according to its cloth; discipline that will mean getting priorities right.
What must be done to salvage these institutions from the doldrums of underfunding, poor facilitation, derelict structures, demoralized and low paid officers among others, has been subject of several reports but to act is the measure of true leadership or else, as Leader of Opposition Winnie Kiiza puts it, “Everything the President said will remain as a wishful thinking list”.