As the stringent measures issued by President Museveni as a measure to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic took effect last week, there have been recurrent reports of abuse by some rogue elements in the security circles.
The Local Defence Units (LDUs) have, in particular, been singled out as notorious. Several people have been beaten up, harassed and humiliated by LDUs in the process of implementing the directives.
On Saturday, two police officers were arrested together with a member of a village defence unit for reportedly beating up a pregnant woman. They claimed she had flouted presidential guidelines. The arrest followed a directive by the President after reports that Ms Mercy Nakate had been tortured by security operatives.
Ms Nakate, 23, a resident of Busega, Kampala, is seven-months pregnant! On the fateful night, she had left home to buy essentials when rain forced her to seek shelter at a makeshift socialisation facility. According to Nakate, the policemen who were on patrol immediately started beating everyone. She said other people ran away but given that she is heavily pregnant, they descended on her, hitting and kicking her despite her cries for mercy.
Nakate is not alone. There are many reports of people facing the wrath of security personnel. At the weekend, a picture of an elderly woman, who was bleeding on a pavement, enraged social media users. According to reports, she was being taken to Arua Hospital for treatment on a motorcycle and security personnel pursued them because presidential directives prohibit motorcycles from carrying passengers. They got an accident in the process.
While the public is expected to respect these guidelines, there are more humane ways of implementing them. It is unacceptable to arbitrarily beat up people, more so vulnerable people like pregnant women, elderly people and those desperately trying to get sick people to health facilities. If someone commits an offence, there are prescribed procedures that should be conducted in a civil manner.
Reports of abuse extend to homes where LDUs have been accused of forcing their way into people’s homes, threatening them under the guise of implementing presidential directive on curfews. While the President addressed this issue on Friday and gave out phone numbers to call in case of harassment, some people don’t have access to phones and it is unlikely the LDUs will allow their victim the freedom to use a phone.
More robust measures should be taken to rein in the law enforcers who are breaking the law.