President Yoweri Kaguta Tibuhaburwa Museveni has once again castigated the Uganda Police Force (UPF) over public order management, tasking IGP Martins Okoth Ochola and Criminal Investigation and Crime Intelligence (CID) director Grace Akullo to provide answers on handling of ‘Free Bobi Wine’ protests.
In his November 29 address on security and the Covid19 pandemic, Museveni took a swipe at the efficiency of the police.
“In spite of the weakness of the police that allows impunity of lawlessness to persist, the overall security posture of Uganda is robust and that is where people (like these rioters) make miscalculations; you will be defeated,” Museveni said.
Museveni then wondered how about 20 people could have been killed by stray bullets alone in the November 18 and 19 protests.
“Police should audit this phenomenon of ‘stray bullets’. If a bullet goes astray, we should know why it was shot. What was the original purpose of those bullets before they strayed? If 32 of those killed were rioters, it means we have at least 20 people killed by stray bullets,” ordered the commander-in-chief.
The president also wants IGP Ochola to bring to book police officers captured on video shooting at non-rioters.
He has also ordered heads of security agencies to explain the men and women who were not in uniform but were seen brandishing guns and aiding police and the military to quell protests.
This is not the first time Museveni is calling out Ochola over police’s performance since the officer took over from long-serving police chief Gen Kale Kayihura who the president fired in 2018.
In September 2020, Museveni directed Ochola to apprehend rogue police officers or he would do the work himself.
“I told the IGP that if the police doesn’t do their work, I will do it myself by arresting the police officers themselves,” Museveni said during an event at the NRM secretariat at Plot 10 Kyadondo Road in Kampala as he handed over motorcycles to NRM sub-county chairpersons.
Museveni had wondered why Ochola had failed to arrest officers and civilians who had disrupted ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) primaries in September.
He also opposed the idea of granting officers police bond.
“There was a violence in Bukono County [in Namutumba district] where people were beaten. I got information that Police has not done much work,” he noted.
“Some (policemen) have been arrested and given police bond; there is no police bond for somebody who has attacked Ugandans!”
The shootings that characterized the primaries also prompted Museveni to issue orders to Ochola.
In October, Ochola issued guidelines on gun use and public order management.
But the shootings that happened during the ‘Free Bobi Wine’ protests seem to have made Museveni wonder if the guidelines have been disseminated and understood by police officers.
Ahead of his reelection campaign, the last thing Museveni would want is police’s poor handling of protests and rallies since all blamed is bundled on his head.
Unlike Kayihura, who in some cases broke into camps on protest planners and reportedly bought off some, Ochola’s handling of riots and public order seem to make Museveni miss Kayihura.
Although Museveni, police and other security agencies claim the protests were premeditated and planned long before the arrest of Bobi Wine, it seems like officers were caught off guard: unprepared.