Mean looking AK-47 toting Police constables will soon disappear from the streets as the force moves to introduce sidearm pistols, the universally accepted weapons in modern policing.
The Inspector General of Police, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, told a press conference at the Police Headquarters in Kampala on Friday that the change of weapons was part of a broader plan to transform the Police from a force into a service.
“We should not be carrying assault rifles on the streets of Kampala…. It is crude to arm Police with AK 47. It is by default. If we had enough budget we would acquire modern weapons,” he said.
He said that AK-47 rifles will be kept in Police vehicles and will only be used as backup whenever need arises. “Even the military should keep their weapons in the armoury when they are not using them,” he said.
Kayihura added that the Ugandan Police has established close links with the British Police and Ireland’s Police Garda Siochana (Guardians of the peace of Ireland) to equip the force with modern techniques ahead of next year’s elections.
Senior officers, Patrick Leahy, the Chief Superintendent in charge of Dublin, and Kevin Smith of Britain, were recently in Uganda to assess how to help Uganda Police build professionalism. They are looking at equipping the force with techniques on how to respond to challenging situations during elections.
Kayihura says the partnership with the British and Irish Police is a deliberate effort to modernise and build capacity of the national Police Force. Already, three Police officers from Uganda are undergoing training in the UK.
Kayihura says that the Police will effectively transform from a force to a service and hence become the Uganda Police Service.
He said that his goal is to build a modern Police Service that has a human rights approach, can handle terrorism challenges and deal with drug trafficking, human sacrifice, money laundering and cyber crime.
“Britain and Ireland are keen on assisting us [so that] the coming general elections are handled under] best practices to rule out shortcomings of the past,” he said.
Leahy and Smith, who were in Uganda for a week, visited the Police Training School in Masindi, the Electoral Commission, and held talks with some civil society organisations.
“Out of our visit we will get a prescriptive basis on which to begin collaboration in specialised areas,” Smith said. He added that Uganda needs to immediately address the living conditions of Police officers and improve their salaries.
“If you don’t pay Police well, you will get a substandard service. Invest in Police for professional service, but if you don’t they will not do what is required to protect the people,” Smith said.