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Police blame ‘African Spring’ on social media

You may soon want to be extra cautious about what you post on your Facebook or Twitter accounts because the police are increasingly getting concerned about what transpires across social media.

While opening the 14th East African Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (EAPCO) Annual General Meeting at Speke Resort Munyonyo on Monday, the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, revealed how the police were building capacity to start monitoring what is posted on social media.

“Social media is a good thing but can also be a bad thing because it is so quick in terms of dissemination of information. If it’s good information that is nice, but if it’s dangerous information like genocide information… somebody tells lies like you remember the Kayunga riots, then you know how much damage it can do,” Kayihura said.

The police chief added: “Social media is a tool that we as police forces must get interested in to make sure that it is not misused for crime, worse still for terrorism”.

Kayihura, who spoke at length about the changing face of crime, which is getting a little more sophisticated for police, also listed riots as another big security threat to be cautious about.

“These riots on our streets, which they are calling Arab Spring [are] a new phenomenon where some forces think when they fail to win through the ballot, they cause chaos then NATO will come to bomb them into power,” Kayihura said.

Kayihura further noted that rioters employ military tactics while facing off with police officers who are still stuck in the old conventional way of keeping law and order.

“They turn the streets into theatres of military-like confrontations. They just get unemployed youths, give them little money and marijuana, intoxicate them, and ask them to set tyres on fire, stone motorists, and fulfill their agenda of what they call African Spring,” Kayihura said.

“This is something we have to think about, these opportunists taking advantage of unemployed youth to use them against the stability of the country.”

EAPCO, formed in 1998, brings together 12 countries; namely Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Seychelles, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti. Its mission is to promote and strengthen cooperation in the management of all forms of cross-border crime.

According to Francis Xavier Rwego, Head of the Regional Interpol Bureau for Eastern Africa, among the trans-border and transnational crimes faced by the region is terrorism, maritime piracy, trafficking and smuggling of human beings, financial and high-tech crime like ATM fraud, and drug trafficking.

“These crimes are affecting our economic development because investors are not sure of the safety of their long-term investments. More so the cost of doing business becomes very expensive, especially with the presence of maritime piracy,” Rwego noted.

Rwego called on member countries to become more proactive in identifying areas of concern. He applauded the recent simultaneous operations targeting narcotic drugs, trafficking of human beings and wildlife crimes.

“Criminals are highly collaborative, they are becoming more sophisticated and globalisation has made it so easy for them to communicate,” he said. “We need to be above their thinking and collaborate more so that we can manage crime in this region.”

To this, Kayihura added that the police have to think out of the box to keep up with modern crime.

“Police operations are no longer the way they were. So, we must think outside the box and come up with strategies that will effectively ensure that we are not overwhelmed,” he said.

He further noted that the line separating police and military operations is becoming thinner.


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