A few nights ago, I painfully watched the 9 o’clock news as a woman activist with the FDC Women’s Forum was ‘manhandled’ by the police, dragged on the ground, her skirts flying over her head revealing her lower body parts and under garments. This woman later fainted and the police said they had called an ambulance to take her for a psych-eval!
Now,the manner in which police officers handle civilians especially members of the opposition regardless of their gender is not something that has been ongoing despite several criticisms and condemnation. In 2008 the same police forcefully and inhumanely Kampala Central Woman MP, also prominent member of the ‘Forum for Democratic Change’ opposition Party, Nabila Sempala while she launched suggestion boxes within her constituency. In the . In the same year, her fellow MP Susan Nampijja of another opposition political party was tear- gassed while consulting with her constituents. The then President of the Uganda Law Society Oscar Kihika, noting with concern, police brutality against civilians and called upon the Inspector of Police to “advise his officers to act and behave professionally in full observance of the constitutional rights of all Ugandans.”
That wasn’t all. In 2012, television footage clearly showed a police officer grabbing and squeezing the breast of Ingrid Turinawe, leader of the FDC Women’s Forum, during an arrest ahead of a rally. She was heard shouting out in pain. Deputy Police chief later apologized to her saying, “the incident will be investigated.” This was just a year after the leader of the same party’s car windscreen was broken before they soaked him in tear gas and arrested him. These are just a few of the incidences and I will not go further into examples because we have all seen theses things happen anyway.
We watch this happen all the time and I think I speak(write) for all, well most, civilians when I say it is frustrating and sickening and we all feel hopeless and for a moment hate our country. Even more frustrating is that we never really see the culprits being satisfactorily punished…or punished at all. I know the feeling and as much as I’ve always advocated for standing up against injustices, I, In my humble capacity implore you all to also think rationally before getting into physical confrontations with these people whose brutality as we’ve all witnessed knows no bounds. This woman who was defending her friend is most probably a mother whose children watched her nakedness on national television. These children go to school and have friends, again, most probably. These images of their mother might forever be imprinted on their minds.
If you’re a parent, this is not something you want to subject your children to for the rest of their lives. If your medical insurance (if you have one anyway) can not fly you to Nairobi for proper treatment, that tear gas may damage your organs forever, if you’re a University student, think about what your parents would go through if you died in a riot. The force whose task is to enforce the laws set to protect you are the same ones violating them. That’s the sad irony. You’ve seen what they’re capable of, so while we all find alternative ways to return discipline and respect of human rights to our police force, stay away from direct, physical confrontations with them. It is frustrating, it is a hopeless choice, but it is a safer one. Your safety and dignity first. Till next time, be safe!