A traffic fit of rage triggers painful questions for UPDF

 A video grab showing Private Derrick Tumwine manhandling police Constable Innocent Omar. 

What you need to know:

  • Some people say that soldiers are acting with a sense of self entitlement.

The public in Uganda has over the past years been greeted by various episodes of security agencies tasked with maintaining peace and security making a nuisance of themselves.
The most recent of those episodes arrived this past week. A military police soldier treated roughly one of the police officers who was regulating a stream of heavy traffic on Kyagwe Road in Kampala City Centre. 
The military police soldier has since been named as Private Derrick Tumwine.

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Mr Samuel Omara, the chairperson for Old Kampala Parish, was at the scene when military police soldiers on a green pick-up truck registration number H4DF B02 requested for quick clearance of the way. 
Police Constable Omar Innocent—attached to Central Police Station in Kampala—reportedly persisted in the urging of the soldier’s patience. To which Private Tumwine took offence.

“All of a sudden, the military police officer grabbed the neck of a policeman,” Mr Omara recalled, adding that a “scuffle” ensued and “the military police accidentally released a bullet that damaged motor vehicle registration number UAR308L Premio, white in colour,  belonging to a civilian whose name was not identified.”
Mr Luke Owoyesigyire, the deputy police spokesperson, confirmed the assault case, adding that it was “to [the police officer’s] surprise [that] he was…grabbed by the collar.

The actions of Private Tumwine are not in isolation. In January 2022, police constable Robert Mukebezi was shot in the leg by a UPDF officer. This came after Mr Mukebezi towed a UPDF vehicle that had knocked down a signpost at Kobil fuel station in Ntinda, a Kampala suburb. The traffic officer had his limb amputated after being pegged to a hospital bed for days. 
The UPDF officer responsible for the shooting is, meanwhile, still “on the run” as per the Force’s spokesperson, Brig Felix Kulaigye.
In 2019, Maj Gen Matayo Kyaligonza and his bodyguards assaulted traffic officer Esther Namaganda. 
Ms Namaganda had stopped the Bush War General from making a hairpin turn on a road in Seeta, Mukono District.

A year later, in 2020, a standoff between the late Lt Gen Paul Lokech and the regional traffic officer for Kampala Metropolitan South Ruth Kyobutungi ended up with the former slapping the latter. 
Ms Kyobutungi had stopped the General’s driver from using the shoulders of Namugongo Road in Kira Municipality, Wakiso District.

Mr Fred Enanga, the police spokesperson, says the “ isolated incidents” do not establish a pattern.
“The rules of a traffic officer on the road are very clear to regulate traffic and to enforce traffic discipline on the roads,” he said before adding, “The UPDF and UPF [Uganda Police Force] have strengthened the relationships between them. These acts of indiscipline, impunity and lawlessness should not destroy the strong relations between the two forces.”
Isaac Ssemakadde, a human rights lawyer, however says it is apparent that soldiers are acting with a sense of self entitlement.

“You have always seen the army truck blocking the road in Kololo when the President is attending a certain function,” he said, adding, “Article 99 of the Constitution of Uganda shows that the President must obey the Traffic and Road Safety Act. He cannot convert a public road into a presidential estate.”
He also hastened to cite Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba’s recent birthday party activities that paralysed sections of Kampala.

Brig Felix Kulayigye, the Defence ministry spokesperson, in a statement described the latest incident as “regrettable” and promised “investigations to establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the [scuffle].”
While appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights on Tuesday, Mr Jacob Oboth-Oboth—the junior Defence minister—was asked to explain why soldiers  continue to humiliate their police counterparts.

“Who is in-charge of traffic in this country?” Mr Allan Mayanja Ssebunya (Nakaseke Central) asked.
Mr Oboth-Oboth promised an investigation into the matter before stressing that “we want harmonious existence and respect to all other officers.” His stance was echoed by Lt Gen Peter Elwelu, the Deputy Chief of Defence Forces, Wednesday.

“There was no reason at all for one of us to interfere with the duties of the police. It was unacceptable and unforgivable. That soldier Private Derrick Tumwine has been arrested and he is facing the court,” Gen Elwelu said.
“UPDF is a disciplined force. We believe in rule of law and we shall always promote rule of law. We have some errant elements; I want to assure you that we shall do what it takes to bring this officer to book,” he added.
 

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