KAMPALA- The police beating of citizens cheering former presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye was sanctioned by the force’s top command, police chief Gen Kale Kayihura said yesterday.
“The use of teargas, rubber bullets and of course bullets has been eliminated. The only options remaining for the commander at scene is use of water cannons or baton charge,” Kayihura said gesticulating a thrashing.
“Because when you are beaten, you don’t die, but also beating in places that will not cause harm,” Gen Kayihura told a hastily called press conference at the police headquarters in Naguru, Nakawa division, yesterday evening.
Security personnel in police uniform and civilian clothes on Tuesday and Wednesday clobbered Dr Besigye’s supporters as some followed him or stood by the road to cheer him.
On Tuesday, Besigye who is facing treason charges, was returning to his home in Kasangati after he was granted bail by the High Court. The following day he was travelling to the FDC headquarters in Najjanankumbi, Kampala.
Gen Kayihura alleged the crowds hurled insults and stones at police, prompting the beating. He claimed that the use of batons is now the recommended standard of operation since the force has always been criticised for using teargas and rubber bullets.
“The images that were shown on television and social media were selective. They did not show the whole incident where crowds threw stones at the police. That is not journalism,” Gen Kayihura said.
Television footage and still images showed chilling images of policemen in uniform, in company of plain clothes and well-built men, indiscriminatively beating citizens and boda-boda riders, caught in Besigye’s vicinity. Some pleaded for mercy as the unrelenting policemen thrashed them.
Gen Kayihura said the Constitution mandates citizen participation in fighting crime and defended the un-uniformed men who participated in the beatings.
“We have foiled many crime incidents with help of ordinary citizens. We also have overt and covert operations. I think what matters is how it has been done. Covert officers should not be involved in the beating,” Gen Kayihura said.
The police chief said he has instructed Mr Fortunate Habyara, the commander Professional Standards Unit, to investigate incidents where plain clothes men have beaten up citizen during operations.
Gen Kayihura said the country was at peace when Besigye was in jail and vowed not to allow his defiance activities unless they are within the Public Order Management Act (POMA).