Voice of America (Washington, DC)

14 March 2014

Uganda: Police Deny Government Interference, Influence

Accra — A Uganda police spokesman has denied accusations by opposition and human rights groups that senior government officials or members of the ruling National Resistance Movement party use police officers to deny permits for opposition rallies.

Deputy police spokesman Patrick Onyango defended the role of the Uganda police and rejected criticisms that they use violence to crush opposition demonstrations for better living conditions.

"We are the enforcers of the law. Definitely someone who is always on the wrong side of the law cannot say nice things about the law enforcers," said Onyango. "The Uganda police force is nationalistic, patriotic, professional, disciplined, competent, and we are productive."

Onyango's comments came after opposition groups and human rights organizations urged President Yoweri Museveni to stop his cabinet officials from dragging the police into politics.

Opposition groups say the police often undermine their democratic role as watchdogs for government corruption and mismanagement. Onyango denied the police are being used as a political weapon against opposition groups.

"There is nobody from the ruling party that has directed or influenced police... " Onyango said. "The ruling party does not have any influence on the Uganda police force. We are following the law, and we have been asking the opposition to do as the law requires."

Police want opposition rallies held in playgrounds

Opponents of the ruling party say the police prevent opposition rallies by refusing to grant them necessary permits.

Onyango said opposition groups create disturbances, causing traffic congestion in downtown Kampala and bringing business activities to a halt.

"They want to hold rallies in markets and near trading centers, normally in busy places [which] will affect the business of other people," said Onyango. "They want to go where people are already there. They don't want to go and mobilize.

"We normally tell them to please go to the city fields and maybe playgrounds where it is outside the business center, but they normally don't want to accept that."

Onyango disagreed with opposition charges the police use unnecessary violence as a means to thwart their protests. "They are the ones who normally begin confronting the police," said Onyango. "If they don't confront us, definitely we cannot confront them.

"We use force which is proportionate to the force against us," the police spokesman said. "So, when they use force, then we also use extra force."

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