Tuesday, December 7, 2010

IPC says government training militia

In today's Daily Monitor headline, Richard Wanambwa reports about how the  police and the army are clandestinely recruiting to keep the ruling party in power.  

The four-party opposition Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC) coalition yesterday accused the police, the army and other security agencies of helping the ruling party recruit militia ahead of next year’s general elections, an allegation the authorities have rejected.

This accusation comes at a time when the police authority has directed that opposition political parties drop their declared plans to recruit what they call “vote protecting brigades” to forestall anticipated rigging. It also follows a reported ongoing nationwide exercise in which the ruling party is launching similar youth wings. Observers fear the possibility of a clash between these opposing brigades could cause violence.

According to Ms Margaret Wokuri, director for publicity and communication at the IPC campaign bureau, police has suspiciously combined its Mobile Police Patrol Unit (MPPU) and the Anti Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) to form a Field Force Unit (FFU) and is helping district authorities create Village Crime Fighters – with an eye on next year’s election.

“IPC would like to draw the attention of Ugandans and the entire world to the continued unprecedented, unlawful recruitment, training and deployment of militia in different places in the country,” she said at a press briefing in Kampala. “In the recent past the police amalgamated MPPU and ASTU to form a FFU which in African perspective is known for Fanya Fujo Uwone (Swahili for cause chaos and face it rough) created to fight anticipated demonstrations against electoral malpractice. The question is why such a force should be created and against who?”

Ms Wokuri said whereas it is the duty of police to keep law and order, “the fighting of crime should be structured whereby youth are recruited without party discrimination.” The IPC, she said, was “concerned that the creation of village crime fighters will be a source of insecurity to Ugandans during and/or after the elections”.

“Secondly, IPC is concerned about training and deployment of the so-called Village Crime Fighters; 30 NRM-leaning youth were recruited per village in Ntungamo District and so far 29,100 youth have already been recruited in this one district,” she said. “If the entire police force is 38,000 men and women, how can a single district have such a large force? This force is certainly created to give mileage to the First Lady (whose Ruhama constituency is located in Ntungamo) in terms of votes but also intimidate the opposition in the area.”

Police spokesperson Vicent Ssekatte last evening acknowledged recruitment of crime preventers but insisted it was all done within the law since the Constitution empowers the police, in consultation with other agencies, to cooperate with civilian authority to detect and prevent crime.

“Crime preventers are recruited by police and we are not doing it in Ntungamo District alone but the rest of the country. It’s not being done in Uganda alone but it’s done elsewhere in the world. We are doing this to help us (police) be everywhere. We told every DPC (district police commander) to recruit at least 100 crime preventers at every village,” Mr Ssekatte said.

On the amalgamation of units in the police, he said the Force is being restructured. “The Kony war was supposed to be handled by police but because we didn’t have a strong force, that explains why the army took over. We are not really targeting any group or anybody and whatever they are alleging is not true,” he said.

Ms Wokuri identified Kapeka and Singo as other areas where the army was training men under the separate supervision of army MP Gen. Elly Tumwine, and the head of Air Defence and Intelligence, Brig. Fred Mugisha.

“It is further established that 5,000 police recruits, 500 police officer cadets are undergoing training in Masindi to beef up the 38,000 in existence. The UPDF is currently training 8,000 recruits in Kapeka under the command of Gen. Tumwine yet he is not … in charge of training of UPDF. Other 1,500 recruits are being trained in Singo military barracks under the command of Brig. Mugisha.” However, Gen. Tumwine yesterday described the allegations as hearsay and farfetched because he was not in active service.

“She doesn’t know what she is talking about and even if I were doing it, there is nothing wrong. Anyhow, I am not doing that as they allege and they should know that Kapeka and Singo are training wings for the army,” Gen. Tumwine said. Army spokesperson Felix Kulayigye said, “I think someone is running mad. These are people we recruited in February and March. How can anybody link them to Gen. Tumwine? So, what is being alleged is bankruptcy and it should be treated with the contempt it deserves.”

Speaking at a function in Mutundwe, Kampala, to flag off the crime preventers’ project, Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, last Thursday said crime preventers who performed to police expectations will be taken on as Special Police Constables. He said then that he plans to recruit 18,000 polling constables to provide security at polling centres. “I know crime preventers aren’t paid but police will throw something little to get you moving. In fact, crime preventers will have the first priority when we are recruiting Special Police Constables,” he said.

NRM deputy spokesperson Ofwono Opondo yesterday said the matter was being blown out of proportion by the IPC. “The electoral law provides for election constables and I don’t think anyone in their sane minds can recruit youth to cause confusion. They (IPC) have been saying the EC was biased but they got nominated and they are campaigning and I think these are baseless allegations,” Mr Opondo said.

EC spokesperson Charles Ochola told Daily Monitor that whereas the electoral law provides for election constables, the issue of recruitment is done solely by the police.

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