Address salaries and welfare of security workers

Milly Nassolo  

What you need to know:

‘‘A recent report indicated that 14 million Ugandans have mental disorders” 

Recently, tragedy struck when a policeman, fully armed and in uniform, opened fire in an office, killing an Indian national operating at a money lending business in Kampala. 
According to police, Constable Ivan Wabwire had a history of mental instability and had been barred from accessing any form of arms.
Shockingly, according to his family, Mr Wabwire had mental issues before he joined the Uganda Police Force which issues they categorically state were evident in his character.
Following the shooting of the Indian money lender, President Museveni issued a statement with several questions about the incident, but most importantly, questioning the mental wellness of the suspect.

Members of the public have also picked interest in the matter and wondered whether police as an institution considers the mental wellness of its recruits, and if they occasionally check their staff to see if they are mentally fit to protect Ugandans and their property.
Ideally, persons entrusted with the security of the nation must be vetted before recruitment, and must be subjected to routine check-up to ascertain their fitness and ability.

Just like athletes who are subjected to random drug tests, authorities must hire psychotherapists to carry out mental tests and monitor the progress of those who have been diagnosed. Must there be need, persistent cases must be suspended from the Force until further notice, instead of only denying them access to arms.
Much as a recent report indicated that 14 million Ugandans have mental disorders, there is no deliberate attempt by the authorities to save the situation. Ideally, everyone must be worried about how many of these are holding fire arms.

Further still, decision makers must be bothered about the primary causes of mental illnesses, especially in the security circles. There have been claims of poor pay, limited time to interact with family, or even traumatic incidences while on duty that leave them mentally disturbed.

In our current state, it is vital that we first deal with security organs by carrying out mass mental health check-up on men and women in security forces.
If government ascertains the number of the patients in the security circles, then it will be able to devise ways of treating them and also reliably inform the general public about people to avoid or trade carefully with because of their inability to associate with the public.

We should understand that data by World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that about 11 in 100,000 commit suicide annually in Africa, higher than the global average of nine per 100,000 people. 
We urgently need answers, especially in the Uganda Police Force where about eight officers committed suicide last year alone. Officials attribute the fatalities to poor welfare, low income, un-serviced bank loans and alcoholism.

Milly Nassolo is as lawyer and human rights activist.