KAMPALA – The Deputy Speaker of Parliament Thomas Tayebwa has urged the government to address the persistent police welfare concerns for Uganda to build an effective criminal justice system.
Receiving a research report that the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) conducted on the working and living conditions of the police personnel, the Deputy Speaker said under-resourced police force reduces the capacity of the personnel to prevent and investigate crime.
“If we are to reform the Justice, Law and Order Sector, and reform the criminal justice system in this country, we can’t do it just by appointing more judges we were doing it because the judges need to be served. At first, we appointed the judges, but there was a gap in prosecutors. So now we have looked at prosecutors and last financial year, we exempted their salaries from taxes which was a very big boost to the prosecution side. But now we need to look at the investigation side,” the Deputy Speaker said on Thursday, February 8, 2024.
He added: “The prosecutor depends on the investigator, [and] the judge depends on the prosecutor. So if you’re to do a whole ecosystem of a well-ran Criminal Justice, Law and Order system, then we have to ensure we don’t have mismatches whereby one sector is deeply looked at and the other sector isn’t looked at.”
He said Parliament will scrutinise the report in detail to help deal with the issues and recommendations made by the Uganda Human Rights Commission.
The Deputy Speaker urged the police personnel to use government incentives including duty-free cement and iron sheets to construct their retirement homes, reminding them the that government won’t give them retirement homes.
Mr. Tayebwa also hailed the security forces for working tremendously to keep the country’s borders safe and ensuring law and order despite having unfavarouble conditions.
“That’s when the spirit of nationalism comes in but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t demand better working conditions. But I want to thank them because no one has stopped work that doesn’t have better housing,” he said, urging the government to study the impact of police silence amid the challenging working environment. The research sought to establish whether police working and living conditions were a catalyst for human rights violations.
Presenting the finding, Ms. Mariam Wangadya, the Chairperson of the Uganda Human Rights Commission said their research found that generally, the living and working conditions of UPF personnel were wanting, and in some cases, it was to extreme, unimaginable levels.
“The situation of housing/accommodation in UPF was dire with institutional accommodation largely dilapidated; comprising shared rooms partitioned by either curtains or makeshift boards; condemned structures and uniports unfit for human habitation. Junior personnel were the most disadvantaged in terms of acquiring decent housing as they were often displaced from institutional accommodation by senior personnel,” Ms. Wangadya said.
The report also unearthed high levels of up to 70% of unfairness in deployments, transfers, and promotions, due to underhand methods, corrupt tendencies, favoritism, tribalism, nepotism, ‘technical know-who’, and bribery/kickbacks.
The report indicated that Personnel had to individually foot the cost of their relocation, regardless of the process or factors for deployment or transfer.
Regarding salary, both the professional and non-professional categories stated that the salary was too low and inadequate to match the increasing cost of living and their welfare.
The findings also showed that delays in processing retirement, pension, and gratuity, caused by bureaucracy and irregularities despite a well-laid retirement scheme, were causing a lot of frustration to some retired personnel.
On the Saff welfare initiatives such as the Police Saving Association Ltd (PSAL), and the Exodus Police SACCO, the report shows were not beneficial because of many limitations in operations; too low loan limits to facilitate meaningful projects; transparency issues and bureaucracy, among others.
Ms. Wangandya appealed to Parliament to enhance the budgetary allocation to the Uganda Police Force to enable it to raise the working and living conditions of personnel and facilitate the proper conduct of work and observance of the human rights of everyone.
“The UPF requires facilitation to develop and implement a standard design for a police station/post that conforms to human rights standards; update staff records to facilitate the rights of the personnel; harmonize remuneration; provide adequate equipment and supplies; disseminate laws to all personnel; and improve communication and information flow, among others,” the Uganda Human Rights Commission boss said.
She noted that the police need the support of everyone in ensuring accountability and ending impunity for human rights violations including empowering police personnel to comply with human rights standards and protecting them from undue reprisals when they stick to the law; while at the same time ensuring that culprits are sanctioned accordingly.