UPDF must move to check creeping impunity

Defence and Army spokesperson Brig Felix Kulayigye, insisted that the land belongs to the army

What you need to know:

The issue: Indiscipline in the army.

Our view: The fight against indiscipline is being lost because there is no evidence that punitive action is taken against the perpetrators. They know that they are always going to get away with it. That is what is fuelling the impunity.

The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) announced on Tuesday that it is investigating an incident in which a soldier attached to the Military Police grabbed a traffic police officer by the collar and dragged him around a downtown street.

Speaking after an amateur video of the incident went viral, Brig Gen Felix Kulayigye, who speaks for both the army and Ministry of Defence, announced that whoever is found culpable will be handled in accordance with the law.

The problem though, is that this is not the first time that men and officers of the UPDF have been involved in altercations with traffic police officers on duty.

Constable Robert Mukebezi’s leg was amputated earlier this year. His leg had been badly shattered by a bullet fired by a UPDF soldier who found him towing an army vehicle that had been involved in an accident.

Prior to that, senior UPDF officers like Maj Gen Matayo Kyaligonza and Lt Gen Paul Lokech (RIP) had been involved in violent altercations with traffic police officers. The two were never subjected to disciplinary proceedings. That must have sent out a signal to their subordinates that they too could get away with assaulting traffic police officers.

What transpired on Monday and a few other incidents such as what transpired during the arrest in September last year of the Victoria University vice chancellor, Lawrence Muganga, when the arresting officers, a joint team from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and the police’s Directorate of Crime Intelligence, roughed up Constable Barbara Nagudi, who was on duty at the university, suggests a lack of mutual respect. That is setting the stage for real peril.

President Museveni has always boasted that only the National Resistance Movement (NRM) has the capacity to keep the army in check.

“All the past governments collapsed because they failed to control the army,” Mr Museveni told his supporters at a campaign rally in Entebbe during campaigns ahead of the 2006 presidential elections.

One has to give it to Mr Museveni and NRM for having had a strong hold on the army for a very long period of time, but incidents such as the shooting of Constable Mukebezi and the Monday incident, among others, are indicators that the grip is no longer firm enough.

The fight against indiscipline is being lost because there is no evidence that punitive action is taken against the perpetrators. They know that they are always going to get away with it. That is what is fuelling the impunity. UPDF needs to act differently. It needs to act decisively.

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