When the new Inspector General of Police (IGP) Martins Ochola Okoth assumed office, many people he would change the image of the police in the eyes of the Ugandan public and the international community. Unfortunately since Mr. Ochola became IGP, there is nothing visible to show that he intends to turn around the bad image of the force before he retires.
The Ugandan policemen have a permanent of the growth of democracy. The officers are determined to crash anybody that comes up to defend their rights and freedoms. There is no difference between police under Gen. Kale Kayihura and police under Ochola.
One would be right to say that Ochola, despite promising a lot, has achieved nothing so far, especially when one considers the Force’s operations as it deals with members of the public who in one way or the other have held demonstrations to show their dissatisfaction towards government policies or unfair treatment.
Since Mr Ochola assumed the office of the IGP, he has not had close interactions with the members of the public. Yet we the public have issues with his force that is made of unqualified personnel, criminals, extortionists and others who believe that it should be the public to serve them and that any one that peacefully opposes government must be deterred with beating, flogging, kicking, slapping, tear gassing and boxing, just to mention but a few.
Mr Ochola seems determined to uphold the belief of his predecessor Gen. Kayihura who believed that any peaceful demonstration must be countered with teargas and live bullets. The officers continue to be trigger-happy and to them loss of a life arising out of their teargas and shooting is of no concern.
On July 11, when those opposed to social media tax and mobile money tax decided to show their disproval of the new tax measures by holding a peaceful demonstration in Kampala, the police rushed to disperse them in a manner that can only be applied in a fascist regime. We thought the NRM government is democratic and operates in a democratic framework-constitution which guarantees civil and peoples’ rights of speech and assembly.
In a democratic society, the role of the police, is to guide those involved in demos. The police are not there to give them permission. The Uganda Police which Ochola superintends over seems to be backward when it comes to observing this simple principle. The truth is Ochola and his men are operating on orders that can only be carried out in repressive states where leaders don’t care about the people that they govern.
Mr Ochola and his officers can not deceive the world that the social media and mobile money taxes have not affected their pockets, their families, relatives and even the force itself. Why would sane policemen target tear gas canisters to innocent people who are not armed in anyway? Mr Ochola, Ugandans are tired of teargas. The billions being wasted on buying the teargas can be used to build police quarters, upgrade police schools, or even used to raise officers’ salaries and allowances so that they stop extorting money from the members of the public.
Prime minister on July 11, while addressing members of parliament said government would review the two taxes, which confirms that those against the taxes and indeed the general public have issues with the taxes. A review of both taxes will also benefit Ochola and his men. The police should know that demos are allowed world over and are not sanctioned by the police. The police can only give procession/traffic guidelines and protection to those involved.
Finally Ochola is enjoying the benefits of being IGP but his predecessor is ‘kept’ somewhere and is wondering why he did certain things just to please the powers that be. It is a lesson that Ochola needs to learn. Citizens will always win no matter how long it takes.
The writer is a journalist with Eagle Online