Suspect arrest orders: Why all talk, no action?

Police officers pictured on October 4, 2022 arresting one of the university students who were protesting the development of EACOP. PHOTO/ ABUBAKER LUBOWA 

What you need to know:

  • The Internal Affairs minister has warned police against arresting people without first conducting investigations.

The Internal Affairs minister, Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, has warned police officers not to arrest suspects without evidence or conclusive investigations.  
The red line drawn on Tuesday renews similar edicts issued by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Martins Okoth-Ochola in June 2018 and four months later by President Museveni, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

In his 19-point guidance, Mr Okoth-Ochola underlined the significance of conducting methodical inquiries to precede arrests which themselves should be conducted with full respect to the rights of the suspects, including notifying them of reason of arrest and intended detention place. 
On the other hand, President Museveni in his October 28, 2018, guidelines to security chiefs on managing terrorists, rioters, criminals and looters and methods of arresting and handling suspects, noted that no member of the security forces has a right to shout at or brutalise any Ugandan and all arrests must follow the law and established rules of engagement.

The pronouncement followed public outcry over alleged excesses and torture of citizens by armed security and intelligence operatives, leaving suspects dead or limping feebly with life-time injuries.   
Neither the police chief nor Force spokesperson Fred Enanga, or the deputy, was available yesterday to explain why none of the prior instructions had been obeyed by law enforcement agencies.  
In his Tuesday rebuke, Maj Gen Otafiire, who as Internal Affairs minister is the political overseer of Uganda Police Force, said he was “tired” of receiving complaints of detention of suspects without investigations, leading to their false imprisonment.  

President Museveni 

“I have heard many complaints of people being arrested without proper investigation. When you receive reports [and] before investigating, the first thing you do is just to rush and arrest. It looks like five out of 10 of the times, the people you arrest are actually innocent,” he said.
He added: “You arrest and then you investigate, Bwanna Inspector General [of Police Okoth-Ochola], tell these people (police officers) that it should be the other way round; you have to investigate and then arrest. Tell those gentlemen that I am tired of unlawful arrests and false imprisonment, and that when you do that, not only do you break the law in causing [the] unlawful arrest of a citizen, you also commit the crime of abuse of office.”

“So, from now on, let us agree that arrests shall follow investigations and if anybody goes to court for unlawful arrest and false imprisonment and they succeed, you will be on your own.”
Section 10 of the Human Rights (Enforcement) Act, 2019, states that a public officer who; individually or in association with others, violates or participates in violation of a person’s rights or freedoms shall be held personally liable for the violation notwithstanding the state being vicariously liable for his or her actions.
Minister Otafiire made the strident comments at Jinja Road Police Station in Kampala while officiating at the launch of a programme to mandatorily screen suspects for HIV/Aids, malaria and tuberculosis prior.

Otafiire vouched support to his charges, but said he needed them to do the job right to earn his defence of their activities, because “not every suspect is a criminal”. 
“So, I am calling for discipline, especially in the police force because when you arrest innocent people, you expose them to these problems [of infections or planned mandatory medical testing,” he said.
Otafiire blamed crowding in police cells and prisons on rushed arrests.
Whereas the minister did not specify which suspects have been detained without investigations, unending police investigations, according to the Judiciary, have led to growing case backlogs in courts.

IGP Okoth Ochola



IGP Ochola’s guidelines 

“A police officer will not effect an arrest unless a formal complaint has been made. All arrests must be done with the full authorisation of the unit supervisors or commanders. A police officer effecting an arrest must identify himself or herself using his or her warrant card. The arresting officer must indicate and identify his or her unit. The arresting officer shall inform the person arrested the nature of the offence for which the arrest is being affected. All suspects arrested by citizens or other security agencies and handed over to police should be subjected to the procedures of suspects’ management. 
… Investigations must be conducted in a diligent and complete manner, and reasonable steps should be taken to ensure that pertinent issues are sufficiently resolved … Investigators should only use force to the extent that is necessary, proportionate and reasonable, in all the circumstances.”
June 30, 2018


Internal Affairs minister, Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire


Otafiire Verbatim on police illegal arrests
I have heard many complaints of people being arrested without proper investigation; when you receive reports [and] before investigating, the first thing you do is just to rush and arrest. It looks like five out of 10 times the people you arrest are actually innocent.
You arrest and then you investigate! Bwana Inspector General [of Police Martins Okoth-Ochola], tell these people (police officers) that it should be the other way round; you have to investigate and then arrest. 
Tell those gentlemen that I am tired of unlawful arrests and false imprisonment. When you do that, not only do you break the law in the causing unlawful arrest of a citizen, you also commit the crime of abuse of office.

You are using your office to hurt an innocent person. So, from now on, let us agree that arrests shall follow investigations and if anybody goes to court for unlawful arrest and false imprisonment and they succeed, you will be on your own.
Tell those police officers [who arrest before inquiries that] if they have not got anything (evidence), you will be on your own. They go to court, they take civil action against you, you will be on your own because not every suspect is a criminal. So, I am calling for discipline especially in the [Uganda] Police Force.

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