14 April 2017

Uganda: Police Must Hear Ecweru On FDC Food Distribution

Photo: Alfred Tumushabe/Daily Monitor
Opposition party FDC party president Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu distributes bags of posho donated by the party to residents of Murema (file photo).

This paper on Thursday reported that the state minister for Disaster Preparedness, Relief, and Refugees condemned the Uganda Police Force for blocking Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party officials from distributing food relief to hunger-stricken residents in Toroma County, Katakwi District.

On Wednesday last week, two people were injured as FDC supporters and other residents in Toroma County engaged in running battles with police following the East Kyoga regional police commander's order to disperse the anxious crowds that had gathered to receive relief food at Toroma Sub-county headquarters.

Former presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye and a group of other FDC party members had reached out to Toroma to supply relief food but police instead frowned upon them by firing live bullets in the air and valleys of teargas scatter them.

Mr Ecweru, who said he read about the teargas fracas on social media, as he was away in Zimbabwe, reportedly advised that FDC will be allowed to distribute food and all they need is to coordinate with his ministry to avoid duplication.

The minister's humanitarian take on the botched food distribution is at great variance with that of Mr FrancisTumwesigye, the acting regional police commander (RPC), who told journalists that the police first needed to examine the food before they allow FDC partymembers to distribute it.

Considering that FDC members have in the past successfully distributed food to famine-hit districts in western Uganda, particularly in Kisoro District, why would the police block a similar humanitarian effort in eastern Uganda?

Is it privy to something about FDC food it is not telling the country or are they simply insensitive about the biting hunger that is wasting away whole communities in Teso sub-region? Most importantly, if the line minister welcomes food distribution by any agency or party provided there is coordination, on whose authority do police need to examine the food before they allow FDC party members to distribute it?

In his homily on Palm Sunday, Fr Francis Kayaye, a priest in Soroti, sharing the frustration of residents, described the police action as unfortunate as it denied the starving peopletheir right to receive food.

Going forward, police should not only say they are keeping law and order but they must be seen to do so. Demanding for food examination may be well intentioned but should it be the major concern of the Force? May be yes, may be not.

At a time when the Force is in overdrive calling for community policing, the least we expect is a repeat of the Toroma fracas.

The issue: Police block distribution of relief food

Our view: Going forward, police should not only say they are keeping law and order but they must be seen to do so. Demanding for food examination may be well intentioned but should it be the major concern of the Force?


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