Uganda Police accountability reform initiatives remain largely on paper

Uganda Police accountability reform initiatives remain largely on paper

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | A study conducted by the Network of Public Interest Lawyers (NEPTIL) has revealed that numerous proposed reforms aimed at enhancing citizen oversight over the police have largely remained unimplemented.

The study, covering the period from 1986 to 2023, focused on recommendations for police reforms, examining constitutional provisions, findings of commissions of inquiry, and internal police reviews.

Constitutional reforms, particularly those outlined in the 1995 Constitution, were scrutinized, emphasizing articles related to the establishment of the police and empowering the public for oversight.

Additionally, recommendations from the 1986 Commission of Inquiry into human rights violations and the Justice Julie Ssebutinde-led Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Corruption in the Uganda Police Force (1999 to 2000) were considered.

Despite a total of 265 proposed reforms during the specified period, only six were dedicated to promoting civilian oversight. These included suggestions for strengthening community policing, establishing an independent civilian-led institution for police recruitment, and ensuring police representation of Uganda’s ethnic diversity.

The study highlighted the limited implementation of recommended reforms, with the Ssebutinde commission’s proposals facing challenges in upgrading the entire Police complaints desk. Although some efforts have been made, several police stations still lack functional complaints desks.

While Dr. John Kamya, Head of Curriculum and Doctrine Development at the Uganda Police, asserted that the police operate within legal limits, challenges persist regarding the police’s independence.

The police, constitutionally mandated to be independent, sees top officials appointed by the President, raising concerns about the force’s autonomy.

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Muwanga Kivumbi, Member of Parliament for Butambala, emphasized the need for broader political considerations, citing potential abuses of amended laws and stressing the importance of a collective bargain with the state for comprehensive change.

Emmanuel Mutaizibwa, a journalist, noted that public expectations from the police might be excessive given the current political environment.

The study recommended reigniting discussions on police reforms in Parliament, conducting further research into international reform recommendations, and strengthening collective civil society advocacy and oversight on police agencies.