Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cairo riots puzzle Uganda police


The riots might be thousands of kilometres away in Egypt, but the developments are being watched and followed closely all over the globe, Kampala inclusive.

For the Uganda police, the manner in which their Egyptian counterparts have handled demonstrations calling for an end to President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year-old reign, could push them into re-thinking their crowd control methods.

Apparently, basing on the three-decade stability of the Mubarak regime, the Uganda police contacted Cairo to help it develop a policing model—especially on crowd control.

Training bond
Last year, two Egyptian police colonels flew to Uganda and have been leading a team at Masindi in training Ugandan officers on crowd control among other skills. They also have been advising police chief Kale Kayihura on how best Uganda can adopt the Egyptian policing model.

The package has also included Egypt offering Ugandan officers scholarships to train in their academies up north. Some of the recipients of this exchange are Gen. Kayihura, the Force's human resource director, Mr Richard Bisherurwa, Masindi Police Training School commandant Andrew Kaweesi, Mr Moses Kafeero, the Kampala South regional police commander, and several anti-riot police commanders.

One officer, who had attended a course in Egypt, told Daily Monitor that they want to use the same skills Egyptian Police uses to quell riots. "The Egyptian police have managed to control riots and protests in their country through amassing numbers bigger than the expected protestors," a senior police officer told Daily Monitor. Some watchers think this has informed the draft outside the regular police recruitment, ahead of next month's elections.

The police are currently recruiting 30 people per sub-county who are trained as crime preventers. Whereas the Force says these will help in community policing, the opposition argue that they are militias trained to help the NRM cheat elections. But with the new developments in Egypt, some officers in Kampala are wondering whether the model is feasible after all.

"With developments that caught the Egyptian authorities off guard and exposed the police effectiveness, we are wondering whether that model is impeccable as earlier thought," said an officer who has trained in Egypt, but asked to speak on condition of anonymity. "The matter has not come up for discussion within the senior ranks though," he added.

When protestors in Egypt last Tuesday began taking to the streets, they were met by hundreds of police, who have been accused of using extreme methods, including firing live ammunition into demonstrators.

On Friday, after prayers, thousands of Egyptians poured onto to the streets.
The police, who came again out with lethal force were, however, overwhelmed and by Saturday morning were nowhere to be seen. They had fled. Instead the army took control of the streets, checking the violence that was erupting.
Yesterday, police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba told Daily Monitor that the Egyptian officers were in the country to advise the Uganda police on establishment of an academy. "The riot police procedures we use are from the United Kingdom and Ireland," Ms Nabakooba said.

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