Odwee makes impassioned plea for police reform

Former Deputy Inspector General of Police Julius Odwee. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • The former Deputy IGP has urged the government to set into motion a process that will audit the Force. This can be done by constituting a national police review team to engage the public.

Any talk about sustainable development and the attainment of middle income status will remain a pipe dream unless Uganda’s strategic plan is tweaked to prioritise making the Uganda Police Force strong and efficient, former Deputy Inspector General of Police Julius Odwee has warned.

The warning is contained in a February 1, letter to President Museveni. Mr Odwee, who retired in 2011 after 30 years of service having joined the police in 1981, was Deputy IGP for 10 years. He served under both Gen Katumba Wamala and Gen Kale Kayihura.

He says that strengthening the police should be done alongside strengthening the protection of human rights, improving service delivery and strengthening the economic base for better outcomes.

“Otherwise without this, what government keeps saying about consolidating developments will be about building castles in the air,” Mr Odwee wrote.

Mr Farouk Kirunda, the deputy press secretary to the President, declined to comment on Mr Odwee’s letter. Mr Kirunda was not sure whether the President had received the letter or any action had been initiated.

Ms Rosemary Nyakikongoro, the chairperson of the parliamentary Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs, however confirmed in a previous interview that she had received a copy of the letter.

Ms Nyakikongoro was copied in the letter alongside the Internal Affairs minister, the Inspector General of Police and the Chairperson of the Lango Parliamentary Group.

“You can ignore the priorities required for the development of the Uganda Police Force in favour of some institutions which you may wish to promote and thus refuse to provide for the funding and let the police institution die slowly,” the letter reads in part.

Mr Odwee also addressed himself to the long-held view that the government is working towards the creation of another agency to take over the investigation of crimes.

“This way forward will make the Uganda Police Force die much more quickly and Ugandans as well as the international community will forget about the Uganda Police Force,” Mr Odwee said of the new paradigm about establishing some other institution to do police work.

The former Deputy IGP has instead urged the government to set into motion a process that will audit the Force. This can be done by constituting a national police review team to engage the public.

“Police mistakes can be reviewed for a better police force by you coming up with a comprehensive National Police Review Team whose recommendations will outline for government all that is required for rehabilitating the Uganda Police Force,” he noted, adding, “Without toeing this line [of carrying out a review], all your efforts as the president, to deploy the army in the police positions will be legally null and void or simply destroy the police institution.”

The police had in the early 1980s come up with a policy of conducting police reviews. After every 10 years, the Force would examine how crimes have evolved, the extent of fear of crime and other threats to public safety while assessing its ability to respond to them. The first review was conducted in 1983 and a second in 1993.

What was considered to be the third review was the process of the Commission of Inquiry into Corruption in the Uganda Police Force. A report by the commission, which was also known as the Sebutinde Commission, was released in May 2000.

Reviews that had been scheduled to be held in 2011 and 2021 were not conducted. In fact, no review has been done over the past 22 years.

“This far-reaching independent review, the first of its kind to be done in many years, should be ordered if Uganda needs a better police force,” Mr Odwee said, adding, “The aim will set a long term strategic direction for the delivery of a professional police service so that it is better able to tackle crime in an age where it is being transformed by new technology and wider social change.”

Snail pace reforms

Mr Fred Enanga, the police spokesperson, told Sunday Monitor that reviews are standard procedure.

“Reviews are always done. It is part of the police management tier where we set self-audit processes, but the directorate of research and planning is the one which always comes up with that review process,” he said, adding, “I just need to find out…whether they have taken interest in it and we compare with what was there during his time as the Deputy IGP.”

Mr Enanga revealed that a review process had been initiated around 2016. He admitted that the last stage that should have seen the Force have public engagements had not been carried out due to logistical bottlenecks.

Some of the recommendations that had been made and were meant to have been discussed in the public engagements had also been overtaken by events, he said.

In the same letter, Mr Odwee claimed that the government had not implemented most of the recommendations made by the Sebutinde report. These included improvement of welfare of police officers, especially in the area of accommodation.

Mr Enanga told Sunday Monitor that the problem is being addressed despite the budget constraints.

“Part of the police’s housing estate in Naguru is due to be commissioned in August. Once that is done the police will start work on housing units in other stations within the Kampala Metropolitan area and thereafter spread out to other locations outside Kampala,” he said, adding, “Some stations outside Kampala, especially those in new districts, have been getting some new housing units.”

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