Security forces start investigating their own over last week’s killings

Police officers shoot to disperse protesters downtown Kampala following the arrest of NUP presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi on November 18. PHOTO/NMG. 

What you need to know:

The UPDF spokesperson, Brig Gen Flavia Byekwaso, told Daily Monitor on Tuesday that all the officers caught on the wrong side of the law will be produced before the courts of law

In an effort to ease public anger over ‘’collateral damage’’ in last week’s protests following the arrest of National Unity Platform (NUP) party presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, authorities have started looking into security mistakes that led to the killing of innocent people in Kampala and other parts of the country. Mr Kyagulanyi was accused of violating Covid-19 guidelines. He has since been charged and released on bail.

In a statement issued on Thursday, last week  the second day of the protests, the police spokesperson, Mr Fred Enanga, writes: “The riots have had collateral damages, which include 28 civilian causalities, 11 injuries of security personnel, 11 damaged motor vehicles, two police vehicles and two government vehicles.”   

Security forces are supposed to target enemy combatants.  They are not allowed to kill civilians.  However, in some situations, operations invariably result in what is called “collateral damage.” This means any death, injury, or other damage inflicted that is an incidental result of security operations. The killing of 50 people, including innocent ones, is what has instigated outrage on social media as Ugandans demand action on security personnels who made mistakes. 

The UPDF spokesperson, Brig Gen Flavia Byekwaso, told Daily Monitor on Tuesday that all the officers caught on the wrong side of the law will be produced before the courts of law. She revealed that the security forces were reviewing the CCTV footage to identify their own who committed crimes during the riots and after thorough review and identification, such officers will be investigated and arraigned before the courts.

“They will be investigated and you know whatever happened is on those cameras and will be reviewed,” Brig Byekwaso said.

“We will analyse them and definitely whoever is found on the wrong side of the law must face the courts of law. There is no doubt about that. The process is on, it has started and all the details will be availed to the public in due course.”

She, however, explained that the particulars of the failures or blunders by the security officers cannot be disclosed at this time, but insisted that they are already looking at what went wrong during the security operations in the various parts of the country.

 Men and women, both in uniform and in civilian clothes, armed with rifles, were seen shooting at the demonstrators during the protests.

 More than 50 people have since been confirmed dead and hundreds injured in the fracas.

While several people have been arrested by security forces on allegations of masterminding and participating in what the security forces have termed as “illegal protests,” all security operatives who killed the 28 innocent people by mistake have not been identified.

 Police records indicate that so far, one soldier who shot dead a suspect while pushing him into the cell has been arrested, while the rest are still at large. It is not even clear if the arrested soldier has been produced in the courts.

  State Minister for Internal Affairs Mario Obiga Kania also said the police Professional Standards Unit (PSU) will deal with all cases involving the police officers during the riots.

However, Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango said he was not aware whether police and other security forces are investigating their own. He said he is only aware that footages are being reviewed to arrest the ringleaders.

 Although Mr Enanga did not respond to our repeated calls and text messages by press time, Mr Charles Twine, the CID spokesperson, explained that police had already opened files for all the 45 people who were killed and investigations are being conducted to find out the cause of their deaths.

“The police spokesperson has been very equivocal on that and we have already opened files to find out under what circumstances these people were killed. If we find out it is a result of murder, the individual officers will be identified, investigated and prosecuted. However, if we find out that they were killed in self defence while police and other security forces were defending government installations and protecting life and property, then the Director of Public Prosecutions will advise accordingly and a decision will be taken,” he said.

While police authorities put the death toll at 45, CID director’s internal report to the Inspector General of Police, however, puts the number of people killed in the two-day protests at 50.

 Security minister, Gen Elly Tumwine, had earlier promised government investigation into what circumstances those who died were shot and who the perpetrators were.