Friday June 6 2014

Who are these criminal gangs in Gulu, Kitgum?

By Editorial

Security reports that at least four boda boda riders have been shot dead and 11 motor cycles seized in Gulu town in the last one month is troubling. For a region that is just emerging from a brutal 20-year-old war, what the residents need now is a peaceful environment for post-war recovery and economic transformation. This makes it imperative that the police and other security agencies halt the spate of killings of boda boda riders and seizure of motorcycles, more so of those trying to pick up their lives by earning an honest living.

There are fears that the boda boda hijacks are the handiwork of organised criminal gangs flashed out of Lira town following a security crackdown. That is why the police should act quickly, step up night patrols and apprehend these criminals terrorising Gulu Town.

The calls by Resident District Commissioner Catherine Lamwaka that residents in possession of illegal guns hand them over to security personnel within two weeks must be heeded.

While the reassurance by Aswa region police spokesperson Jimmy Patrick Okema that the police and other security agencies will break the criminal ring is welcome, his disapproval of the residents’ use of social media to discuss the insecurity is unhelpful. This is because when the town is insecure, no entrepreneur will risk investing there, even when the social media network is quiet and the crimes run unabated.

The challenge for the police is to arrest the criminals and restore security. It is crucial that security agencies restore residents’ confidence lest they take the law into their own hands as has happened in Kitgum. Because the Kitgum residents alleged that some officers colluded with thugs to abet robberies, they have resorted to lynching suspects.

Mob action should, however, never be an option. That is why it is important that the Police Professional Standards Unit moves in quickly to redress the situation and build a working relationship with the people.
The Unit must also investigate the several cases of misconduct by the officers as acknowledged by District Police Commander Denis Ochama. However, the appeal by Mr Ochama to the regional police commander to only transfer the implicated officers is not good enough.

The officers who will be found culpable must be fittingly punished if the Unit is to uphold and improve standards in the Uganda Police Force. The Force should not tolerate officers who are tasked with enforcing law and order taking the lead in colluding with thugs to abet crime.