President Museveni says all arresting officers should always identify themselves. | Photo by PPU

By Caesar Abangirah

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has written to heads of security, giving them guidelines on how to manage rioters, terrorists, criminals and looters. In a statement released last week, President Museveni also advised Chief of Defence Forces, Inspector General of Police, Director General – ISO and Director General – ESO on proper methods of arresting suspects and handling them, while in custody.

“The fundamental starting point is the NRA principle of being an army of the people, the masses. Each of these (people) is like our father, mother, sister, brother, son, daughter or grandchild if they are Ugandans,” President Museveni wrote.

“These must never be beaten, pushed or be barked at for any reason. They should, if it is required, be advised or be restrained if they are trying to go to an area where they are not supposed to be.”

In the message, heavily laced with Runyankole words such as okuhabura – advise, kutsindika – push, obuteeka – orderliness, President Museveni said security forces can retrain surging crowds by ‘stretching out arms, while your rifle is slung at the back (not pointing a rifle at the people)’

“Restraining members of the public from accessing certain areas can also involve barriers or ropes,” he said. “You should never push people that are enthusiastically surging forward to show support for the NRM or the President.  You should never hit the chest of an approaching person with open palms”.

President Museveni’s advice comes hot on the heels of growing public discontent over the behavior of some rogue security personnel.

A few days ago, Yusuf Kawoya, a member of the Democratic Party’s youth wing was brutally arrested in broad day light by plain clothed men, purportedly belonging to SFC. Quite often, Military Police, and the Uganda Police have been seen beating or even shooting at protesters.

“The above are for the law-abiding citizens of Uganda or our guests,” he added.

On the issue of rioters, President Museveni said the best way to control them was by the use of water cannons since it is strong, non-lethal and not noisy.

“Tear-gas, rubber bullets should be discouraged because they are noisy and, sometimes, they can affect unconcerned people. All the Police forces in the world have shields and batons which they use to disperse hostile crowds.”

If, however, the rioters do not stop after the Police use of shields and sticks, if the water cannons that are very effective are not available, then, President Museveni says, the Police can use live bullets by first firing in the air; but, if the rioters persist, the Police will fire directly at the rioters to protect the lives and property of the law-abiding citizens or protect themselves from the rioters.

Therefore, those who speak about this subject should know that rioters, under certain conditions, can be shot legally and can also be beaten legally and legitimately. It is, therefore, a serious miscalculation by the opportunist and criminal leaders to manipulate young people into such situations. Why do they not send their sons and daughters to riot? When it comes to suspected terrorists or murderers, running away from the arresting team is a serious mistake. You will be shot. Why?  If the Police do not disable you or kill you, they may never get another chance to catch you so that you answer for your crimes.

In the meantime, the criminal may commit more crimes. Therefore, shooting a terrorist who is running away from the security forces trying to arrest him/her, is in order not to allow him/her to escape from the forum where accountability is possible (by being tried in the courts of law) and also to protect the public against further crimes.


What security forces should never do.

(a)     Push people who surge forward towards leaders out of enthusiasm; you should restrain them but not push them.

(b)     You should never bark at people you should advise them.

(c)     On rioters, you should use water cannons if they are available; if they are not available, you should use shields and sticks (short and long) as the Police will guide; tear-gas and rubber bullets are, of course, non-lethal but they are noisy; however, they cannot be ruled out;

(d)     If the rioters persist and threaten life or property, you can use live bullets, first firing in the air and, eventually, if necessary, firing at the rioters;

(e)     Once rioters are arrested or any other criminal, he/she should never be beaten by stick, fist or rifle butt. It is unfair, unnecessary and gives a bad image to the country. It is not necessary because what you want is for this criminal to pay for his sins.  How?  By being tried and sentenced. You do not have to beat him or maim him. He will be punished by being imprisoned or even hanged, if he is sentenced. You should, therefore, not play in the criminal’s hands by beating him/her so that he gains public sympathy. In what capacity are you beating the criminal? Are you the punisher?  You are not.  Your job is to detect, investigate, arrest and interrogate the suspect by using the facts of your investigations. Even if the criminal denies, the facts will pin him down.  Constitutionally, the punishers of criminals in Uganda are the courts of law.  Their punishments include long terms of imprisonment, fining wrong doers or even hanging them. Therefore, security personnel do not meddle and spoil the process.  Just do your part.

(f)      The arresting officers should always identify themselves so that the public knows that they are legal operators.