The Police in Naguru have been forced to leave to a new location in Busunju, to pave way for a JLOS project. Much as the deputy spokesperson says it is for the best, most officers feel they are not ready.
They went to sleep on Tuesday, August 13, 2013, sure that they would wake up the next day to report to work. For the children in school, it was the day before their end of term exams. But unknown to families of over 100 Police officers resident in Naguru Barracks, it would be their last night there.
On Wednesday morning, they woke up to the sounds of men armed with hammers, removing the iron sheets and throwing their belongings outside.
"We asked them to let us stay and leave at the end of the school holidays because some of us had children who were candidates sitting for mock exams. Besides, most schools are doing end of term exams," says a visibly shaken police woman, speaking on conditions of anonymity.
Most of the officers who stay in Naguru also work within the Kampala Metropolitan area and Naguru offers them cheap accommodation.
"Some of us were used to walking from our homes to our work stations daily," she adds.
Naguru police houses. Most officers feel they are not ready to move.
However, Uganda Police Deputy Spokeperson, Patrick Onyango, says the families were briefed two months before the evictions.
"We notified them that the said piece of land, measuring approximately three to four acres, had been earmarked for the construction of the Justice, Law and Order Sector (JLOS) offices to house its sister partner institutions like the Directorate of Public Prosecution, the Uganda Police, Uganda Prisons Service, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Internal Affairs, among others," he says.
Onyango told Sunday Vision that the Police Advisory Committee (PAC) sat and evaluated the eviction process and issued an order to the director of logistics and engineering to avail two buses daily to pick and drop students from Busunju to their respective schools.
"The two buses will take the children in the morning to school. In the afternoon, one will pick up those with no lessons and return them home, while in the evening, another will return to the school to pick up those who have had afternoon classes," says Onyango.
He says the Police also have other means of transportation, including trucks and pick-ups to pick and drop officers to and from duty.
"We did not take the decision arbitrarily, but met and discussed the eviction with the affected families and gave them detailed plans to resettle them in Busunju," Onyango defended the move.
The dilapidated toilets at Naguru Police Barracks. Government is having bigger plans for the housing of police.
A highly placed source in the Police, told Sunday Vision that the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Gen. Kale Kayihura, came under immense pressure from key stakeholders under JLOS, who accused him of frustrating the implementation of the project; that he had failed to avail the agreed land to construct the offices.
The source said JLOS complained to the President that key funding partners were threatening to recall the funds they had earmarked for the construction of the headquarters.
Sunday Vision has also learnt that the IGP was initially hesitant to hand over the said land on the grounds that he had not yet found a suitable accommodation for his officers and their families and that negotiations were still ongoing.
The President is said to have directed Kayihura to avail the land in question and in return, JLOS would fund the construction of the new Police headquarters. Until recently, the Police had been renting premises; they have since moved into the newly constructed Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Department.
It was because of this that the Police started talks with the affected families. "Most of them never wanted to leave the place because they found Naguru convenient," Onyango says.
Some of the women supplemented their husband's income by selling local brew in nearby bars in Ntinda and Naguru, operated kiosks and offered cheap labour to the Naguru neighbourhood.
Police officers and their families are being evicted to pave way for a JLOS project to be set up on the property
Onyango down played fears from most families that they are being victimised since their husbands are off to far-away stations for assignments. "These evictions are not targeting families of officers who are out on missions. We have not stopped paying their husbands' salaries," he says.
Onyango says Busunju barracks is more spacious than Naguru and that the place has clean water provided by the Police Fire Brigade. "We have a tanker permanently stationed in the area and it provides safe and clean water for the families that have already settled, as plans are being made by our engineering team to bring in piped water."
Onyango also says the evictions are taking place in phases and that already, over 200 families have been relocated to Busunju. Some families, however, have refused to relocate to Busunju, opting to rent houses in nearby areas.
Onyango also allayed fears that they were planning to relocate the entire barracks to Busunju. "If that was the case, we would not be building a day care centre at the same facility," he said.
He said earlier plans to give away the land to the Uganda Police housing project, a public-private partnership (PPP), had failed due to lack of an enabling law.
The PPP is a procurement mechanism through which the public sector engages and exploits the private sector competencies to address the deplorable and dilapidated state of accommodation in which police officers work and live.
In a bid to modernise the force, Kayihura mooted for the PPP to develop suitable and decent office and home accommodation solutions for the Uganda Police Force.
Under the deal, the largely dilapidated Police barracks will be phased out to pave way for new structures that will include the new police headquarters.