The Inspector General of Police (IGP) Martins Okoth Ocholla has responded to summons issued by the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) requiring him to appear and respond to allegations of violently stopping lawful gatherings and peaceful demonstrations. The IGP responded to day May 4th, 2023 as was required of him in the summons by sending Assistant Commissioner (ACP) James Kusemererwa from directorate of Legal and Human Rights and Inspector of Police (IP) Kambanda Turyomugisha to appear on his behalf and explain.
“We have been informed that the IGP wasn’t able to come owing to the various security meetings he is engaged-in following the shooting of State Minister for Labor Col. Charles Engola Macodwog by his bodyguard last Tuesday,” Ida Nakiganda the Director Complaints Investigations and Legal Services (UHRC) informed members of the press immediately after the meeting. The meeting was held at UHRC’s Central Regional Office along Katalima Road in Naguru – Kampala.
She said the two representatives informed the Commission that whereas they recognize the fact that citizens are not supposed to seek permission to express themselves or hold gatherings, there is a requirement to give notice to police prior to any gathering but at times the said gatherings do not fulfill this requirement. About the recent violent arrest of Opposition Woman MPs at the entrance of Parliament, Nakiganda said, the IGP noted the unbalanced reporting in the media where only footage from police manhandling the MPs was shown leaving out that when the MPs were beating up police officers.
“They said the police has already opened up charges against the suspected MPs, but also there are efforts being made to have both the MPs and the injured police officers to meet before the Human Rights Committee of Parliament and reconcile,” she said.
She said the police has however acknowledged that there have been excesses on behalf of individual police officers and these are being handled as some of the suspected officers like in the case where journalists were directly pepper sprayed, have already been arrested.
The summons came following various incidents like one on 30th March 2023 when Mityana Woman MP Joyce Bagala was stopped from commemorating International Women’s day at Bekiina in Busunju County – Mityana district during which Hon. Bagala was pepper sprayed and police used teargas, colored water and live bullets on the gathering. The other incident happened on April 21, 2023 when another MP Hon. Suzan Nakaziba Mugabi of Buvuma district was also stopped from holding the same event at Kyanja village in her constituency (Bwema Sub County). Also violent scenes had earlier unfolded on April 14, 2023 when Hon. Joan Alobo Achom – Soroti City Woman MP and Anne Adeke Ebaju – Soroti District Woman MP were stopped by police from Commemorating International Women’s day. Even on April 11, 2023 Journalists had been pepper sprayed by a police officer at Mulago Guest House when they were covering a demonstration by medical intern doctors over delayed commencement of their internship
The incident, which sparked the summons, happened on April 27, 2023 when eleven Woman MPs were violently arrested by police at the entrance of Parliament as they were marching to the Ministry of Internal Affairs to handover a petition to the Minister.
The Commission, according to Ms. Nakiganda, also put it to ACP Kusemererwa that despite all those incidents above, another General in the army has been freely holding birthday parties and other celebrations under the MK-Project within the same period, uninterrupted. The Police however responded that the General has been notifying them prior to those celebrations.
Director Nakiganda said the police officers have agreed to report back to the Commission in a space of one month with a report on what disciplinary action they would have taken against errant police officer who will be found to have used excessive force during those incidents.
“The meeting also resolved that the Police will issue Standard Operating Procedures to commanders and officers guiding them on what to do during gatherings,” she said. The IGP officers reported at exactly 10:00am and left at 12:48pm.