Now that the visitors we didn’t want to annoy have gone back to their countries after attending some conferences in Kampala, we can wash our dirty linen as Ugandans. Isn’t that what they call good manners?
Over the last few weeks, every newspaper has carried a story involving the police. And the stories were not about heroics of police officers in firefighting gear, ladders on the building and getting a little girl alive from a burning building, just moments before the roof curved in.
They were not of police officers rescuing a two-day old baby from a pit latrine or arresting the bad guys who had made it a habit to stage armed robberies every time the sun set. The stories were about the police officers turning rogue, becoming the bad guys themselves.
You have heard the well-orchestrated plot that saw police officers walking away with millions or billions, depending on who you believe, from the residence of a honcho of the ruling party. Their job at the residence was to protect it from the bad guys.
Other police officers were arrested for stealing some $30,000 from a Kenyan trader. They were charged with aggravated robbery and dismissed from the force. Another 10 police officers were arrested for stealing from a thief. When they apprehended the thief, they decided to declare less money than they had found with the suspected thief.
I hear it is common for the police officers to declare less money. Exhibits are known to disappear from police stations and posts. Many people in Uganda don’t bother reporting crimes to police because they don’t expect much or they think that the police are already conniving with the thieves.
Stories are told that thieves with the knowledge or connivance of some people within the police partitioned Kampala to themselves. A thief who steals from Kampala road doesn’t operate on Nkrumah or Parliamentary avenue because that is another thief’s territory.
Those who operate during the day don’t do so at night. They also know who steals what. Those who break into houses, we are told, don’t break into cars. It is called honor among thieves. That is why when bigwigs lose their phones or laptops, the police recover them quickly.
They know which thief operates where and at what time. Like the story of Sobi who was recently killed in a land conflict while carrying out an illegal operation, security forces once in a while incorporate them into the forces as spies or operatives. Security forces, perhaps, have never heard that leopards never change their spots.
Yet the crimes perpetrated by rogue police officers increase by the day to the extent that we would need the entire newsprint reel and perhaps more to list all these things. The crime rate isn’t going down in the country but it should be worrying that some of those responsible with protecting the people are instead committing crimes against the people they took vows to protect.
It isn’t just the police that should be in the spotlight. Supermarket owners complain of pilferage. Restaurant and bar owners know that staff are capable of bringing their stock which they sell first without incurring the overall cost of running the business.
When the owner checks on the stock, he realizes he is well stocked. It is the customers who aren’t drinking or eating or they are consuming very little. In actual sense the customers are consuming a lot but from the stock of the workers. Yet the staff expect salaries on time and even promotions.
Commercial banks are under siege from both customers and their employees who are manipulating digital systems and walking away with billions. Banks, I am told, fear to make the news public so that customers don’t lose confidence in them and withdraw all their deposits.
The rate of crime has an effect on the country’s economic performance. If crime cartels control parts of a major city, people can’t set up businesses in those areas or even the country itself.
If bank staff inform criminals of who has withdrawn large sums of money so that they can waylay them a few minutes later, people would rather invest in countries and cities where they know their money is safe.
If police are now reported every day as being involved in crime, no serious investor would like to come over here. We will end up with those looking for deals. If we are to become a middle-income country, the police’s professional standard unit’s job is well cut out.
The writer is a communication and visibility consultant.