By Norbert Mao

What we know as Crime Preventers today has evolved over time. In 2007 during the protests against the government give away of Mabira Forest mean and hungry-looking stick wielding ruffians most of them clad in threadbare clothes descended on the protestors. Some people thought this was a one off incident. But the notorious group appeared to be part and parcel of the police operations to quell protests. Even so, the then Police Spokesperson Judith Nabakooba denied knowledge of the group.

But it became impossible for the denials to stand for long. It was discovered that the goons were being served meals from Constitution Square by the police. Another time they were seen emerging from Kampala Central Police Station. That is when Kale Kayihura came out to say the Kiboko Squad is deployed to quell protesters because he does not want to use rubber bullets and tear gas!

In 2010 one bold member of the Kiboko Squad said “Everything has an owner. Uganda is owned by President Museveni, so we shall fight to protect him in power.” That was not a far fetched statement. Museveni later praised the goons. He said “I salute the Ugandans who stood by justice and opposed the criminals [demonstrators], I was actually worried: Have these policemen become the Kiboko group? Are they the ones beating people with sticks? I was assured that those people are the community who organised themselves in a self-defence group against these rioters.”

In 2013 a group known as National Crime Preventers Forum (NCPF) was launched at a big ceremony. At the time of writing this article, the group has a well furnished office at Plot 27, Naguru Drive, Naguru, in Kampala. It has in its leadership ranks well educated people. Some are lawyers, others are entomologists and parasitologists! Some are very well spoken and articulate.

On their website they claim to be “a group volunteers from their respective communities who have offered voluntarily to work had in hand with police in promoting and implementing Community policing through the “Mayumba Kumi” Model of Neighborhood Watch (Ten Crime Preventers per ten households). Under Umbrella organization, National Crime Preventers Forum, Crime Preventers are selected by their respective communities in consultation with and on recommendation by local authorities and opinion leaders, trained by police and passed out back to the community to act as a link between the community and police in detecting and preventing crime.”

On the face of it all this sounds noble. But it is said there are two reasons why people do things – the real reason and the one that sounds good. The stated reason is the one that sounds good. The real reason is more sinister. Given what we witnessed when Museveni met the coordinators of the Crime Preventers, we can safely say the group is there to serve a partisan political purpose. In fact by guaranteeing the group regular income from the UPDF’s overstretched budget, Museveni has effectively created a force similar to Adolf Hitler’s Gestapo storm troopers.

The group has a national leadership team. According to their website, the group boasts of “approximately eleven million members right from the village to the National level with about 80% being youth. These include 30 cell leaders per village, Village Coordinators, Parish Coordinators, Sub County Coordinators, District Coordinators and Regional Cordinators. Numerically, there are one million, eight hundred thousand cell leaders, seven thousand four hundred and sixteen parish coordinators, one thousand four hundred sub county coordinators and one hundred twelve district coordinators.”

With Kayihura’s exit, it appeared like the Crime Preventers were orphaned and stranded. Now Museveni has adopted them and given them a foster home in the UPDF. This is not only illegal and outrageous but it is also financially untenable. Above all this move should be condemned as a high handed attempt to subvert national security forces to further Museveni’s despotic ambitions.