Sunday March 30 2014

Uganda police are victims, not villains

By Muniini K. Mulera

Dear Tingasiga:
The Paramilitary Uganda Police is working overtime to keep the Museveni regime on course towards self-destruction. The more havoc the regime wreaks on the human rights and freedoms of Ugandans, the more it exposes the nakedness of its soul and its nature.

Even the most gullible victims of the conjuror’s tricks will soon be disabused of the illusion of democracy under Museveni as they come face to face with the truth that the promised fundamental change was a fairy tale.
The regime has entered the dangerous phase of self-destruction. Nobody is safe from the pruning that must be done in an effort to ensure the ruler’s survival.

If Gen Museveni can go after the Right Honourable Amama and Jacqueline Mbabazi, his long time allies, simply because the Prime Minister has reportedly shown interest in the presidency, who can claim to be safe?
Not even Gen Kale Kayihura can afford to sleep with both eyes closed.
Kayihura, the Inspector General of Police who currently seems to enjoy Museveni’s confidence, would do well to remember that a ruler whose era is coming to a dishonourable end becomes very highly paranoid.
Today ,it is Mbabazi. Tomorrow it will be Kayihura. So my advice to my brother Kayihura is to go easy on those whose ranks he may well join before the cock crows twice. History is full of regime enforcers who were ditched by rulers that saw plots in closets and bathrooms.
As for Kayihura’s subordinates, it would be cruel not to feel very sorry for them. Take the police in Kabale who were deployed three days ago to disrupt a peaceful visit by Gen Mugisha Muntu, Bishop Zac Niringiye, Dr Kizza Besigye and other opposition leaders.

They have my full sympathies, for they too are victims and hostages of the very regime they protect. While they are busy beating opposition leaders, those they protect continue to live in splendor and to loot the Treasury. Meanwhile the police struggle to make ends meet.

The little colonial houses in Kabale that constitute the “police quarters” were built in the 1950s. Dirty, with broken windows, these buildings that ought to have been pulled down long ago are home to the regime’s enforcers. They share space with small outhouses and round metal sheds that Ugandans call mama ingia pole (madam enter carefully).

It is here that the underpaid police officers live with their families. It is from here that their families travel to the inadequately resourced government hospital up the hill.

It is from here that their children walk to poor schools in the area, their future bleak even as the children of the rulers enjoy first class education in private schools at home and abroad.
Further west is the Uganda police head office in Kabale, the same little building that was designed to house a dozen or so policemen in the 1950s and 60s. The poorly maintained place is overcrowded, its once lovely gardens a graveyard for the remains of many motor vehicles that tell the story of road carnage.

It is from here that the policemen are sent on missions to effort lawlessness; to attack and harass the men and women who are fighting for the rights of all workers, including police officers.

I am convinced that the police do the dirty work for survival, not out of conviction. This does not excuse their brutality, of course, but it enables one to recognise that the police are not the enemy.

So I encourage Ugandans, including the direct victims of tear gas, truncheons and bullets, to remain firm but calm in the face of police action. Do not fight them. Extend a hand of friendship to them.

This is the moment for every Ugandan who loves our country to get involved and use every non-violent method to fight the impunity by a president who believes that the country is his private estate.

If Gen Muntu’s rights are suffocated, yours will be buried by a president who believes that he is the law. The citizens must refuse to be coopted into Museveni’s illusion of divinity, one that has engendered irrational, albeit widespread fear. This fear must be fought and overcome with peaceful methods.

Non-violence is a more potent force than a violent response to even the most extreme provocation. There is a good chance that the police will soon realise the futility and folly of continuing to be used against political leaders whose struggle includes better conditions for all security forces and their families.

The police, like all citizens, ought to be loyal to Uganda, not to one mortal man who is not as invincible as some imagine. The panic into which Museveni has been thrown by Mbabazi’s potential challenge is a good example of his vulnerability.

A strong and secure ruler would not have been so destabilised. He would not be chasing unarmed opposition leaders.
This is a moment that the Opposition leaders must not let pass. They must unite and work together to give Ugandans hope for a viable, effective and credible alternative to a regime that is long past its expiry date.