Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura has criticised US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for saying Uganda police brutalise civilians and block enjoyment of civil liberties in the country.
The Inspector General of Police yesterday said accusations in Ms Clinton’s recent dossier to the US Congress, highlighting alleged disruption of Opposition rallies by a partisan Police Force, is “biased and unfounded.”
“The Americans have everything and instead of coming to develop our capacity, they just write unfounded reports,” Police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba quoted her boss as saying. “The report is biased and it is false the way the issues are presented.”
Ms Clinton, in the first of a series of reports she will be submitting to Congress that directed her to closely monitor Uganda’s preparation for the 2011 elections, said the government had compromised the independence of Uganda’s Electoral Commission.
Litany of ‘sins’
The report listed muzzling of free media, precarious safety of some presidential aspirants and suppression of political activism – based on alleged police manhandling of Inter-Party Cooperation women who tried to petition EC officials to resign – as warning signs of an early “damage” to the 2011 ballot groundwork.
“Several of the women accused the police of mistreatment during the arrest and subsequent imprisonment, claiming that police used excessive force, forced some women to undress, and placed some in police holding cell with men overnight,” Ms Clinton wrote.
The suspects were later charged with holding an illegal assembly, trespass and belonging to unlawful society - but all are now out on bail. Ms Clinton further noted: “On January 25, police in Masindi (District) disrupted a rally for Forum for Democratic Change president (Dr Kizza) Besigye, and on January 27, police in Kampala arrested a Uganda Peoples Congress party member for holding up placards belittling NRM’s January 26 celebration of ‘Liberation Day’. The Police charged the lone protester with sedition on January 28 ...”
Yesterday, Maj. Gen. Kayihura, who was speaking to 242 of his senior commanders drawn from across the country, acknowledged that peaceful demonstration is a constitutional right. He, however, insisted that organisers seek police permission to aid crowd control in case things go wrong.
“This is the standard practice even in those developed countries such as the United Kingdom and America, which have designated places where people can gather to demonstrate,” he reportedly said. “But what we have are riots by people carrying stones and this is criminal. Peaceful demonstrators must be unarmed.”
Hundreds of district police commanders and their CID officers are camped at Police Training School Kabalye in Masindi District, receiving tips on public order management in anticipation of chaos during campaigns for next year’s general elections.
The IGP cautioned against unnecessary use of force and said firing of live bullets must happen only in circumstances permissible under the law. Officers who order shooting, he said, must take responsibility for the outcomes.
He said: “I don’t want to hear excuses of I did this or that because of ‘orders from above’. This is nonsense.”