“Sometimes Uganda’s police force does things and you wonder whether those serving in it are trained enough.” These are not my words. They are words of former Cabinet minister Aidah Nantaba.
She should know. Last year, police arrested a man she suspected was out to kill her. She has said many times that she has many enemies, and considering that many prominent (and powerful) Ugandans have been murdered over the years, with police doing almost nothing to find the killers, she had every reason to be concerned.
Ms Nantaba says she called the police when she realised her life was in danger. They swung into action, arrested the man who was trailing her on a motorcycle—but rather than interrogating her, they simply shot and killed him. And they asked Ms Nantaba—would you believe it—to record a statement.
It is hard to ignore what our police are doing in the run-up to next year’s election. They are arresting people at every turn and, in many cases, on very flimsy grounds.
And they insist their job is to protect Ugandans. They, of course, are protecting their jobs and the jobs of politicians who have turned Uganda into their personal property.
Last week, police arrested a singer named Gerald Kiweewa and comedians, accusing them of promoting sectarianism and offensive communication. If you ask me, the comedians’ ‘crime’ was making a skit that stated the obvious in a hilariously funny way.
The people of Uganda are Ugandans, but Ugandans wielding power and their henchmen have made themselves more Ugandan. They seem to believe Uganda belongs to them and the rest, the vast majority, should just look on even when there is a lot to complain about, even when things are going horribly wrong.
Let me go back to the arrest of Mr Kiweewa. The complainant should be Ms Nantaba if, indeed, there is a case to answer. But when Spark TV contacted and asked her about the song Mr Kiweewa composed, which the police say is offensive, she said she is not the only Nantaba and that there are many Nantabas in Uganda. Kiweewa, she said, is free to sing about any name.
Now you have to wonder: Which crime did Mr Kiweewa commit? How can police fail to know that even if they decided to arraign Mr Kiweewa before court, they would never win the case.
We have to continue relying on our police force because we do not have any other law-enforcing agency. But the incompetence of our police, compounded by their allegiance to people in power and those close to them, is shocking.
The last time I reported a case to police, in April 2019, they asked me to monitor the movements of the man who had to be arrested (which I did) and report to them. In other words, I was being asked to do police’s work. The man was arrested, but I had to pick up police officers who carried out the arrest in my car. That is how police serve us.
Ms Nantaba has expressed views about our police that strike a chord with many Ugandans.
If the police really care about enforcing law and order, their principal duty, and want to protect Ugandans, why have they done almost nothing about the murders of prominent Ugandans such as Andrew Kaweesi (one of their own), Mohammed Kirumira (another of their own), MP Ibrahim Abiriga, Maj Mohammed Kiggundu, Joan Kagezi? Why go for (innocent) small fish like Mr Kiweewa and comedians? Over to you Uganda Police Force.
Mr Namiti is a journalist and former
Al Jazeera digital editor in charge of the Africa desk