Uganda: Ochola to Police - Stop Mistreating Protesters

27 October 2020

Inspector General of Police Martins Okoth-Ochola has stopped law enforcement personnel from treating rioters as enemies, but as momentary opponents in an effort to reduce misuse of lethal firearms in police-led operations.

In the new standard operating procedures on the use of force and firearms by law enforcement officers during operations, IGP Ochola said: "Rioters are momentary opponents and should never be treated as enemies, set principles and procedures for use of force.

"Demonstrators or even rioters should be treated as momentary opponents and not as armed enemies. This called for use of non-lethal weapons," a guideline on use of lethal force, reads in part.

There have been several incidents where security personnel have dispersed demonstrators with use of lethal firearms leading to the loss of lives. Many of these brutal use of force by security personnel did not attract government action until in the recent National Resistance Movement (NRM) primaries where more than six people were killed in demonstrations over ruling party poll results.

In a September 8 letter, President Museveni gave IGP Ochola orders to issue guidelines in form of a booklet, on use of firearms to all police units, LDUs and private security firms to stop excesses.

In guidelines to disperse demonstrators, IGP Ochola issued three steps the officers should take including talking to the leaders to stop their activities first, and if they refuse, the commander must audibly inform the group to disperse.

The third, when they insist on the assembly, the commander must make a proclamation for them to leave the venue before using non-lethal methods to disperse the errant ones.

According to the booklet, when the verbal warning is not heeded to by the demonstrators, the commander of the law enforcement group must fire three bullets in the sky first as a warning sign to the demonstrators.

"It must be proportional to the attacking force. For example, if stones, bottles are being thrown at police or abusive and provocative language, such would not justify the use of firearms. If force must be used, non-lethal weapons should be employed first," one of the principles of using force in the booklet reads in part.

Guidelines

The law enforcement officers must "always aim at the protections and preservation of human life, property and human dignity". However, the booklet did not tackle limits on private security firms and who should hold a gun.

The President proposed that private security firms should only protect property other than guard services. He also wants guidelines to control law enforcement personnel from carrying firearms from one place to another.

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