The minister for security Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde has refuted assertions by legislators that the government ordered and oversaw the beating of scores of citizens who had lined up along some Kampala streets to catch a glimpse of FDC presidential flag bearer Dr. Kizza Besigye as he went home after release from jail last week.
“Police acted very unprofessionally in their use of excessive force. We always need to stick in the rules of the law and let us stop manipulating situations,” minister Tumukunde told MPs on Thursday afternoon while Parliament debated the police brutality claims.
On Monday, five junior officers and one crime preventer who were captured on camera beating civilians appeared before court to answer to two counts of unlawful or excessive use of authority contrary to the Police Act and discreditable or irregular conduct. They were later released on police bond. The accused are Willy Kalyango, 25, Sula Kato, 43, Kennedy Muhangi, 38, Moses Agaba, 33, Robert Wanjala and Dan Tandeka, 33.
The chairman of the court, Denis Odongopiny, read the charges, and if convicted, the officers face dismissal from the force or demotion. However, the appearance in court of only lowly-ranked policemen has angered their colleagues, with some saying their bosses should also have been charged, something that has been done.
Police chief Kale Kayihura last week castigated his senior commanders and ordered an investigation into the conduct of five of them. Interestingly, some of the commanders under scrutiny appeared alongside Kayihura during a July 14 press conference at Naguru.
They included Andrew Kagwa, the regional police commander for Kampala East, James Ruhweza, who heads operations in Kampala Metropolitan; Kampala North regional police commander Wesley Nganizi and his deputy Geoffrey Kahebwa.
Meanwhile, today Speaker Rebecca Kadaga said Police brutality is a matter of public concern and it was important that the August House discusses it.
And, in an usual state of affairs, MPs from the ruling party, the NRM and the opposition were in unison, asking the government for answers about the recent beatings of civilians, with Butambala Member of Parliament Muwanga Kivumbi saying the Inspector General of Police Gen. Kale Kayihura should be arrested. The youthful MP said insisted police is acting contrary to its rules.
“What we are seeing today is that those supposed to enforce the law are the first to break it, and the first one to go into the dock should be IGP Gen Kayihura,” Muwanga Kivumbi said.
The motion was backed by Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba, who said: “The most degrading punishment is being caned, especially when you are an innocent by passer”
The duo was also supplemented by NRM diehard and Busiro South MP Peter Sematimba who moved the House by demonising the brutality meted onto Ugandan citizens saying: “This brutality is evil and not right. Brutality is not for this century or this country,” Sematimba before adding: “Majority of Uganda Police Force is doing a great job. We should separate individuals and their actions from the entire force.”
In his submission the state minister for internal affairs, Obiga Kania, while issuing the official government statement, told MPs that the Police Act provides for police courts before which the officers are appearing.
Minister Kania also drew to emotion when he reminded the House about murder of Assistant Inspector of Police John Michael Ariong who, three years ago, was hit by a blunt object while on duty during a riot by Dr Besigye’s supporters.
He however commended the Police in Mbarara, western Uganda who recently restrained themselves in the face of crowd surges when Dr Besigye was in their area.
“The crowds around Kizza Besigye are not spontaneous; they were organised as part of the defiance campaign,” he continued.
“In instances where the Police restrained, we should not take it for granted. Let’s not ignore their sacrifices,” he said.