Kampala- The new police chiefs Inspector General of Police, Mr Martin Okoth-Ochola, and his deputy, Brig Sabiiti Muzeyi, will decide the fate of crime preventers who were recruited by former Inspector General of Police Gen Kale Kayihura sacked by President Museveni on March 4.
The revelation was made yesterday by police spokesperson Emilian Kayima.
He was responding to questions from journalists whether the crime preventers would remain part of the police force since their mentor and overseer Gen Kayihura was fired.
Mr Kayima said the new police leadership would deliberate on their relevancy in the force and decide their fate.
While appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Appointments for vetting last week, Mr Ochola assured the MPs he would carry out radical reforms in the police to reshape and streamline the force.
Police’s image has been extensively tainted by reports of extortion, brutality, torture, corruption and collusion with criminals to the extent that President Museveni has twice publicly said the police are infiltrated by criminals.
Mr Kayima said Mr Ochola and Brig Muzeyi may dissolve crime preventers or appoint a team that will draft a policy to streamline and regulate their operations.
“We have not dissolved the crime preventers and no one has issued any directive disbanding or banning their operation with police. But what I can say is that the new IGP and his deputy shall sit and make a decision on crime preventers’ future,” Mr Kayima said.
Tackling the issue of crime preventers who have roundly been loathed by the public for brutality and fuelling crime would be one of Ochola’s first major changes, since his appointment last week, in the police structures left by Gen Kayihura.
While officiating at the opening of the 24th Police Council meeting at Marine Base in Kigo recently, Internal Affairs minister, Gen Jeje Odongo, under whose docket the police force falls, expressed dismay over the operations of crime preventers who he said are dangerous to the police force since they cannot be held accountable when they act contrary to police standing orders.
“It is true we do not have a policy to regulate activities of crime preventers. Our new IGP and his deputy will soon meet and discuss all matters regarding crime preventers. I cannot tell what they will decide but hopefully they would come up with a policy or make any decision on their activities,” Mr Kayima added.
Mr Ochola, who had been Gen Kayihura’s deputy for six years, was last week appointed and approved by Parliament as the new police boss.
He will be deputised by Brig Muzeyi who had been commanding the military police. Mr Ochola and Brig Sabiiti are expected to assume their new offices today at police headquarters in Naguru.
Gen Kayihura often said he had recruited about 11 million crime preventers countrywide since 2010 when the crime prevention concept was developed by Mr Blaze Kamugisha, now serving as their national coordinator.
At least each of the 1,080 police stations in the country has five or more crime preventers attached to it.
The crime preventers have often been implicated in criminal activities such as robbery, theft, unlawful arrests and extortion.
However, Mr Kayima said much as there are some errant crime preventers, majority have been vital in helping police fight crime especially at village level.
Meanwhile, police clarified that a civilian killed during last Thursday attack at Kabowa Police Post was shot by their own officer, not a crime preventer as had been claimed by some media.
Mr Kayima said the civilian was hit by a stray bullet fired by a police constable in a bid to repulse an attacker who had stabbed a police officer and two crime preventers.
Uganda Human Rights Commission: On July 1, 2017, Uganda Human Rights Commission chairman Meddie Kaggwa condemned the impunity of some crime preventers. He said petitions by torture victims against crime preventers were on rise. He accused them of murder, extortion and property grabbing.
Human Rights Network: In December 2015, the Human Rights Network called for a law to regulate activities of crime preventers. The organisation said government should halt their recruitment until a legal framework had been established to regulate their conduct. Human rights activist Sheila Kawamara warned that unless the activities of crime preventers are regulated, it could spark violence in the country.
Kayihura sacking angers crime preventers
A group of crime preventers in Karamajo Sub-region, who have been working closely with police yesterday demanded a meeting with President Museveni over their fate following the March 4 sacking of police chief Kale Kayihura.
They also expressed outrage at the way Gen Kayihura, to whom they directly reported, was shown the exit.
The disgruntled crime preventers said they enjoyed close working relationship with police under general Kayihura, who hurriedly expedited their recruitment before the 2016 presidential and general elections.
“As crime preventers, we need to have a meeting with President Museveni because we are not sure of our stand,” Mr Same Lote, one of the crime preventers in Moroto District, said.
Kayihura sacking, he said, was “unfortunate”.
Mr Museveni replaced Gen Kayihura with his deputy Okoth-Ochola and named Gen Elly Tumwine, who was sworn in yesterday, as Security Minister as Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde’s replacement.
Police yesterday said IGP Okoth-Ochola and his deputy-designate, Brig Sabiiti Muzeyi, will decide on the fate of about 11 million crime preventers recruited during Gen Kayihura’s tenure.
There is no law to guide their actions of the crime preventers, many had no qualification before enlistment and a lack of clear structure and command has meant they have operated outside the law without accountability.
Critics have called them Gen Kayihura’s auxiliary force since they reported directly to him.
Under his direction, crime preventers were recruited and officially attached to police stations in their respective localities to play, among other things, covert intelligence work.
They have been facilitated under the community policing budget and in some cases received logistical support including transport and tents.
Mr John Osike, another crime preventer attached to Nakapiripirit District police, said Gen Kayihura had boosted their work, adding that things will be difficult with his exit.
“We should be given an audience as crime preventers with President Museveni and we raise our voices because now we don’t know our direction since the boss that we have been reporting too has been removed,” he said.
Mr Patrick Timong, a crime preventer in Kotido District, said only the President can placate them.
“We might decide to keep criminals (scot-free), causing disaster in the community because we are not sure of our fate anymore,” he said.