Kabuleta’s ordeal and downside of militarising Uganda police

What you need to know:

This brutality and torture of a man who is simply speaking his mind must be condemned in the strongest terms. Kabuleta was detained for more than 48 hours

Last week’s media breeze was all about the arrest and alleged torture of Joseph Kabuleta and the cost of speaking truth to power. This gifted writer and gospel preacher also writes and speaks about the violence, corruption, sectarianism, propaganda, deceit and manipulation at the heart of the Museveni regime.
He has not spared the Opposition either which he accuses of duplicity, lack of focus and a failure to give Ugandans a heartfelt motive to embrace their message. He thinks our mantra of unity is uninspiring and suspect that it evokes images of another set of power hungry leaders merely seeking their turn to eat!
For his pains to spread light, Kabuleta was arrested gangster style by operatives in civilian clothes. They did not even introduce themselves. They gave no reason for the arrest. They violently grabbed him and bundled him up in some kind of police Uber. I don’t have to add that the number plates must have been fake.
He was taken to the new Nalufenya described in antiseptic terms as Special Investigations Unit (SIU) Kireka. The arresting officers killed their boredom during the journey to Kireka by slapping him repeatedly until his nose started bleeding. They also tried to reorient him on the need for him to become more patriotic, meaning he should sing praises to President Museveni and his household. This was not done through measured instructions but rather in the form of threats about the dire consequences of publicly speaking about the plots going on in the Museveni court.
Looking frail, he appeared on TV to give an account of his ordeal. He said he was invited to a shower by his hosts who forced him to strip to his underwear. The ritual shower involved bucketfuls of water being thrown at him randomly from any direction. A one man film crew armed with a smartphone was on hand to document this display of hospitality. Episodes of the recording were being relayed to a third party. They then brought a written “apology” they had drafted and forced him to read it aloud. This display of “remorse” extracted with menaces was also recorded and transmitted to the third party. A smug look of “mission accomplished” must have filled the faces of Kabuleta’s tormentors.
This brutality and torture of a man who is simply speaking his mind must be condemned in the strongest terms. Kabuleta was detained for more than 48 hours. They denied him the right to see his family, his doctors and his lawyers.
All this saga came days after the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Okoth-Ochola had issued a terse circular telling police officers to desist from torturing suspects and detaining them beyond 48 hours. When one of my aides contacted the IGP, he said he was not aware that Kabuleta was still in detention. Obviously some officers don’t seem to take their orders from the IGP! I saw a video where a police officer from Kiruhura (the district that hosts President Museveni’s country home of Rwakitura) who had been detained for ‘mishandling’ exhibits was walking scot-free and even in a meeting with the IGP! To put it mildly, it was an embarrassing exchange as the IGP inquired into the circumstances of his release.
Using the army to undermine the police is imprudent. Both institutions deal with security but their doctrines are different. The police mainly deal with civilians to enforce law and order. The army deals with armed aggressors who threaten a nation’s territorial integrity. If the police is to deal with unique threats like terrorism, specialised units are established for that purpose. Such units are not ordinarily deployed to face civilians.
But the die is cast. Museveni recently appointed the following army officers to key positions in the police: Brig Jackson Bakasumba, joint chief of staff; Brig Geoffrey Golooba, director of Human Resource Development and Training; Col Sserunjogi Ddamulira, director of Crime Intelligence and Col Jessy Kamunanwire, director of Human Resources Administration.
To Museveni, the army is central – the hammer which makes every problem look like a nail! From distributing seeds, quelling riots, fighting corruption, guarding VIPs to immigration, the army has become ubiquitous.