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Thursday, 16 January 2014

Church should have sought apology from Omalla, Kaweesi

You haven't recounted the events of 2013 accurately until you take stock of the often inhumane manner in which the increasingly dreaded Uganda Police Force repetitively roughed up, beat, and - at point-blank range - shot at citizens expressing their reservations at the theft of public funds and government profligacy.
As a society, we have been numbed to the wanton cruelty that is routinely meted out by police to the extent that no one asks about the two babies, Javiirah Nasamula and Abigail Julian Nalwanga, whose lives were ended in Masaka by trigger-happy policemen who fired live ammunition into an unarmed and defenceless procession of citizens protesting the stateís extravagance in the face of the rising cost of living.

Last year, the police unilaterally passed and refused to rescind an unlawful "shoot-to-kill" policy under which suspected criminals were to be shot dead on sight. The leadership of the police force was pivotal in lobbying for the enactment of the manifestly unjust and draconian Public Order Management Bill (now Act), which has become the legal framework through which dissent of any shape or form is criminalized.

In one of the most embarrassing spectacles to the force, dozens of wives to policemen staged a demonstration against the subhuman conditions of disease, hunger and poverty that they have endured for years...no different from what Walk to Work, Black Monday, Action for Change or any other pro-democracy citizen outfit for change has been advocating.

Like mindless automatons, the police, acting on "orders from above", subjected their spouses to the searing sting of tear gas, batons, kicks and slaps, in an effort to quell a demonstration by women whose only crime was to dare demand for a modicum of dignity.

The litany of abuses that range from complicity in armed robberies, to sporadic shootings to obstruction of justice are evidence of a police force that has degenerated into a partisan, lawless regime-maintenance machine.

The homes of political party leaders, elected leaders of the opposition, vocal religious leaders and some citizens within civil society have either become permanent police detaches or are under constant surveillance by shadowy intelligence operatives.

Do school children still earn marks for stating that the role of the police is to "maintain law and order?"
Why do most of us feel insecure around members of the Uganda Police Force yet their presence should be a reassurance of security for ordinary citizens?

Has the inspector general of police stopped to ask himself why mob justice is commonplace notwithstanding the litter of police booths with hungry and yawning officers that punctuate Kampala's environs, for example?
It is against this rather unfortunate background that I was quite disturbed to see two leaders of the Christian faith give a platform to two men who have become the undisputed face of the repressive machine that the Uganda police has been reduced to - Kampala Metropolitan Police Commander Andrew Felix Kaweesi and Kampala North Police Operation Commander Sam Omalla!

I know the new year often brings good cheer, and I suppose this was the spirit with which Mr Omalla was received at Nakivubo stadium, and Mr Kaweesi at Nsambya Catholic parish, on the night that ushered in 2014. And yes, I understand we must love the sinner and hate the sin.

But Omalla has unapologetically led most, if not all the deadly crackdowns I have highlighted above. From my one-time interaction with him at Wandegeya police station, where my colleagues were being detained for distributing free copies of the anti-corruption Black Monday newsletter, Omalla has no remorse for the terror he has meted out on defenceless and peaceful citizens; if anything, he was ebullient and proud while he recounted his 'accomplishments' to me.

That Omalla was permitted to 'preach' to the same citizens he routinely terrorises whenever they demand what is rightfully theirs defeats comprehension and can be construed as the church's tacit approval of the regime's highhandedness and intolerance to divergent opinions. It is a regrettable betrayal of the trust that God has vested in the leadership of Ugandaís Christian family as far as the stewardship and protection of His people is concerned.

The Church missed a golden opportunity to demand an explanation from the two leaders about why the police have (man) handled, maimed and caused the needless deaths of protestors in Uganda. The Church should have asked Omalla and Kaweesi the hard questions regarding incessant police brutality against unarmed civilians.

The Church should have demanded an apology from the two gentlemen, on behalf of the Uganda Police Force and a pledge that in 2014, the force would act impartially and respect the rights of all Ugandans.