Police spokesperson, Mr Fred Enanga, has announced that the police officers who damaged the vehicle of the Kyadondo East Member of Parliament, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, during his violent arrest on Easter Monday, are to face disciplinary action.
It is great that some sort of action is to be taken. Whether it will be a charade like those that have been held before is yet to be seen. But that the police first waited for President Museveni to question the methods that it employed against Bobi Wine before announcing that it was to take action against some of the rotten apples in the Force comes across as a knee-jerk reaction precipitated by the President’s comments.
The Force has over the last two decades etched itself a name in the hall of notoriety for acts of barbarism. The use of excessive force became quite commonplace, especially during Gen Kale Kayihura’s tenure as Inspector General of Police (IGP).
At the time, one could easily hide behind Gen Kayihura’s background. He was a soldier and cadre of the regime. He was not even a trained police officer. But the same cannot be said of the current IGP, Martins Okoth-Ochola, who as a trained officer, was expected to lead the Force back to its home as a disciplined establishment. Why has that not happened? Why do acts of barbarism continue?
We dare say the leadership is not interested in stamping it out. Why? Because there is no evidence to suggest that punitive action has ever been taken against the perpetrators.
On April 28, 2011, Gilbert Bwana Arinaitwe smashed the windscreen of Dr Kizza Besigye’s vehicle, sprayed his eyes with pepper spray before bundling him onto a police pickup truck. Arinaitwe was never punished. Should it then come as a surprise that some officers have adopted his methods more than eight years after the attack on Dr Besigye?
Rather than take disciplinary action against Andrew Felix Kaweesi and officers under his command for squeezing Ms Ingrid Turinawe’s breast during her arrest on April 12, 2012, Gen Kayihura described the incident as “a small matter.”
In July 2016, six senior officers beat up Dr Besigye’s supporters in Najjanankumbi and Kasangati. They were dragged to the disciplinary court for a charade of a trial, which saw them convicted and receive “severe reprimands”.
It is unlikely that the disciplinary court will hand out a heavier sentence, yet that is what it will certainly take to stamp out acts of barbarism. The court must start handing out deterrent sentences. The Force needs it. The public needs it too.