Saturday May 20 2017

Torture scandal: The denials, propaganda and public relations


By Asuman Bisiika

We all read the letter; it was all over social media. And as is the wont of social media, we all went into overdrive criticising the phraseology of the letter: such a poor handiwork of a letter. It was not the kind one would expect from the White House. But it bore the gazetted signature and seal of the President of the United States of America. The contents of the letter were that US President Donald Trump dismissed the FBI chief.
And as we were still smarting from the Trump letter, Mr Museveni wrote a letter guiding security agencies on the issue of torturing suspects.
Commenting on the Museveni letter on torture, I wrote: “The letter, its text and rhythm of syntax, lacks the necessary sting of a command directive or firm guidance on policy.”


As the public relations officer and spokesperson for the Uganda Police Force, AIGP Asan Kasingye, faces pressure from both the Force and the public. He is in the firing line of the citizens and the Ugandan Police Force as an institution. That’s why I have been imploring Ugandans to feel pity and pray for him.
And indeed when AIGP Kasingye recently appeared on NTV to talk about the torture case of Godfrey Baymukama (the LC3 chairman of Kamwenge Town Council), I called him to express my support for his endeavour and role as the public relations officer of the Uganda Police Force.
One may ask: Do you, Asuman Bisiika (son of Hadijah) really support the illegal actions of the police? My answer is simple: Public Relations is not propaganda; neither is it about denials of actions deemed as a violations of laws.
Public Relations is about communication and interaction to the public. And it is the cumulative sum of all administrative, management and operational actions (whether by commission or omission) of an institution and how the public relates to it.
However, the problem with the public relations (effort) of the Uganda Police Force is not communication; rather. it is what to communicate. This is compounded by a population that views the police as a politically partisan institution.
With AIGP Kasingye as the public relations officer, there is a marked improvement of the grammar in the press statements. But the content, attitude are still aimed at obfuscation, denials, propaganda and what we call PR.
If the Uganda Police Force is serious about its image as a government agency, they should just start with the way police officers on duty conduct themselves.
The Uganda Police Force should know that the courts of law are the ultimate consumers of the information collected from suspects (forcefully or otherwise). Whereas service intelligence is consumed by policy makers, police information (on crime) is consumed by court.
And it is common knowledge that courts don’t admit information collected under duress. With a good lawyer, the increased incidence of torture is likely to jeopardise the prosecution’s side of the stick in many cases.
Indeed, I agree with Mr Museveni: a well investigated case (with the right attitude), would yield more results (as far as prosecution is concerned) than confessions derived from torturing suspects.


The biggest highlight of the Nalufenya torture scandal is the resurrection of a certain Henry of Rujumbura rwa Mpororo as a saint. St Henry’s bashing of the police and the moralisation of the torture scandal is very curious. Some people are already wondering whether this is (could be) the Henry they used to know (his earlier life).
Another highlight is that I am considering retiring this column; or at the minimum stop writing commentaries on politics and security. I should write more on Congolese music.
Mr Bisiika is the executive
editor of East African Flagpost.