Kampala. Muhammad Kirumira, the maverick of the Uganda Police Force in the recent years, was shot dead last Saturday.
The shooting on September 8 happened exactly three months after the shooting to death on June 8, and in a similar manner, of former Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga.
Before these shootings, the country had already been shaken by the shooting to death since 2012, and still in a similar fashion, of at least seven Muslim clerics, former senior prosecutor Joan Kagezi and former police spokesperson Andrew Felix Kaweesi.
Here we mention only the prominent ones, but dozens of other Ugandans have been killed in a similar fashion over the same period.
The President said in his address to the country last Sunday that many of the suspects in the killings have been arrested and some identified although not yet arrested.
What is important to note, however, is none of the suspects has gone through full trial until now, including for the murders that were committed in 2012.
The motive for the killings which are largely carried in the same fashion - highly efficient gunmen riding motorcycles ambushing and killing their target in the full view of citizens – has either not been identified or made public.
What is wrong?
With so many murders remaining unresolved and more killings being committed in similar fashion, questions keep mounting as to what is wrong.
The Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Directorate (CIID), which is often only regarded as the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), is directly responsible for cracking the crimes to arrest perpetrators and unveil the motives with the view to ensure that they are stopped.
Saturday Monitor spoke to seasoned detectives to establish why CID has turned into a lame duck, hardly cracking any cases as hardcore crime mounts.
Many of the detectives point to neglect, incompetence, corruption, poor funding, tribalism and maladministration of the directorate for what they see as the slow death of criminal investigations.
The directorate’s poor performance even caught the eye of President Museveni who, in the recent past has called upon the army’s intelligence arm, the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and Internal Security Organisation (ISO), to catch criminals.
According to the police crime report, a total of 252,065 cases were registered last year, but only 66,526 of these were fully investigated and ended up in court. 185,439 cases did not go to court.
And of the 66,526 cases that were taken to court, the police secured convictions in only 1,419, with a telling 9,613 cases dismissed for want of evidence and the rest won by the suspects.
By the close of 2017, 105,017 cases were still under investigation while 36,633 were still pending in court.
When cases take too long to be investigated, the chances of evidence disappearing multiply.
“Blame it on politics”
A number of the detectives we spoke to blame CID’s failures on political interference, saying there are cases in which detectives deliberately bungle up cases on the directions of their superiors. They give examples, which we will withhold.
They also blame the decline in the performance of CID on the turf wars that were fought by former Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura and CIID director Grace Akullo.
For a long period towards the end of Gen Kayihura’s reign, Ms Akullo was on the sidelines and CIID suffered from underfunding as Gen Kayihura assigned duties of investigations to units he formed under his office.
Another issue that concerns detectives is that as Gen Kayihura created a larger-than-life character as police boss, he took over many of the functions and oftentimes disregarded established methods of police work.
This is manifest, some detectives argue, in the way Gen Kayihura would rush to scenes of crime and almost effectively take over the job of investigators yet he was not trained.
A number of seasoned detectives had been shoved aside, our sources say, because they were deemed to be opposed to the police leadership.
Other detectives we spoke to say that overtime, the management of the police has been deploying officers straight from training school to head investigations desks and supervise more experienced detectives.
“What knowledge would such an officer have to direct an investigation? This is why CID is dying, officers lack mentorship yet they are entrusted with big responsibilities,” a retired detective says.
“Our work is a professional job. It requires specialised training and skill to pull off. Do not think that just because you have a degree you can investigate. It’s like lawyers; they have degrees but are required to go to LDC (Law Development Centre) and are even attached to law firms to prepare them for the job,” he adds.
Over time, seasoned detectives we spoke to say, detectives learn to apply the knowledge of psychology to deal with suspects. However, this requires years of practice. Because of inexperience and lack of skill, one of the sources we spoke to thinks, the younger detectives resort to torturing suspects to extract confessions.
Where is the money?
Out of the more than Shs500b that has been allocated to the Police Force for years, not enough has been committed to equipping CID, a number of detectives says.
They say much of the money under Gen Kayihura went to financing procurement of equipment to put down political agitation and expanding the Force in other ways, but criminal investigations remained a neglected area.
For that reason, the sources say, the detectives hardly had transport to investigate cases, lunch while on duty and even simple things such as pens and papers to record statements.
This gravely affected morale and many of the detectives reportedly gave up, withdrawing into other activities and vices.
At the CIID headquarters in Kibuli, the piles of case files are gathering dust and paint is peeling off walls.
Encountering detectives as they whiled away the hours in conversation has not been a rare scene for years.
Several detectives confess to using their own money to investigate cases.
“When a matter has just been reported, you get a lot of pressure to investigate and sometimes management gives you money. When the pressure dies out, it becomes your case; you use money out of your pocket to make calls, photocopy documents or buy paper to record statements,” one detective says.
He adds that detectives routinely ask complainants and sometimes suspects for money to investigate cases and it is not rare for someone, who is walked into the CID headquarters as a suspect, to walk out as a friend of a detective if that suspect has money.
Detectives, the sources says, have been reduced to relying on complainants to bringing witnesses as opposed to investigating officers identifying witnesses through assembled evidence.
“We are seeing arrests that are not evidence-led, but arrests out of excitement or misguided briefing received from complainants,” one detective says. One detective branded some of his colleagues as robbers.
“You cannot concoct a case against an innocent person, take them to court just because you want to steal their car or you want to show them that you are powerful. There are so many cases whose files are not anywhere in police records but suspects are languishing in police cells,” the detective said in reference to what some of his colleagues do.
To demonstrate the importance of money in investigations, one detective pointed out that more cases of phone theft are solved than other cases because those who lose phones and are keen to regain them pay policemen to arrest the thieves.