In this interview, Commissioner of Police FRANK MWESIGWA reflects on his one and half years on the job of Kampala Metropolitan Police commander. He talks about his effort to popularise community policing and the pressures of work.
Mwesigwa replaced Assistant Inspector General of Police Abbas Byakagaba in July last year. Mwesigwa went to Kashwa primary school in Kiruhura district, Mbarara High School and Makerere University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences. He also holds a master's degree in peace studies and conflict transformation from a university in Rwanda.
He got married early this year to Monica Kamwine and they have a four-month-old baby. The Kampala police chief spoke to Zurah Nakabugo.
Most people see you active in police operations and they want to know who you are and how you do your work. When and where were you born?
I was born on April 2, 1980. I was born in Kazo, but migrated to Naama Kiburamu, Kiruhura district, where I grew up. My parents are Rtd Rev Canon Patrick Bwerere and my mother is Mrs Bwerere.
How many are you in family?
We were seven but one passed on. I am the fifth born in the family. Our first born is in the village, second born is an officer in the UPDF, third born is a police officer and my other two sisters are civil servants.
Why did you all join security forces?
To do work that has an impact on the average person and to change things, which were not moving well. We have conducted many operations and arrested a lot of criminals who have been terrorizing the city such as the Kifeesi crew, gang rapists, robbers and murderers and rioters.
When and how did you join police?
In 2007, I was working with the private sector but later I realised that my efforts were not being felt. In the private sector, you don’t maximise your capability. I felt police moves up to the lowest level where your decisions [and] intervention can help an average person.
We did an oral interview at Didi’s World Kansanga and aptitude tests at the ministry of Internal Affairs. I was shortlisted and after a month reported to Police Training School, Kabalye in Masindi district where we were trained in military skills for one year. My first deployment was at Counter Terrorism (CT).
I was inspired by how police responds to things day and night. I look at every conflict in society, even if it’s not criminal, it requires police intervention.
Your rise in police in such a short time has been fast, you jumped some ranks.
My rise has been mainly due to the 13 professional courses I have done in anti-terror operations both locally and abroad. When I did the first training in urban fighting and anti-terror operations, I was appointed to head the department at the rank of assistant superintendent but acting as a commissioner.
So, the courses I did while working, helped me to jump the rank of Senior Superintendent to acting commissioner.
Then I was transferred to the Police Training School in Masindi, which is headed by a commissioner and I was training about 3,000 people. So, with my competence, I was vetted to full commissioner. Recently, I finished a senior command and staff college course. Discipline, good performance have also helped me.
What have you done as KMP and what challenges have you faced?
Being KMP commander is a demanding job due to the dynamics of a metropolitan city. However, I interact with the lowest people directly, listen and understand their conflicts since our decisions impact them directly. I make sure their problems are solved since some of them might not be criminal.
The changing face of crime daily, where you handle one, and another crops up almost immediately has taught us to be prepared anytime.
When I came in, I found there were a lot of kifeesi [thugs] criminals and people in Kampala were worried about them. Working as a team at KMP, we defeated kifeesi. Some streets in Kampala were impassable but they are safe now.
After cleaning up kifeesi, we battled a gang of criminals who were dropping leaflets containing murder threats, attacking homes, killing or injuring people. And recently we had women being targeted and murdered within and around the city.
Anything unique about how you fight crime in Kampala?
You must be committed since you work with different people. I always leave office late in the night, but still continue working from home; talking on phone up to morning. Sometimes I don’t sleep.
KMP commanders don’t keep the job long. The longest-serving commander was AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi who served for about to two and a half years.
We don’t appoint ourselves in these positions. We have the appointing authority, the inspector general of police. Since the KMP position is at the apex, if I perform well, I can be elevated and taken to a higher office. It’s all about your competence; if you don’t perform, you can’t even spend two months here.
The police are considered partisan; targeting opposition.
In all the things and decisions we take, we are guided by the law, even if it means dispersing people. I follow section nine of the Public Order Management Act, which mandates police to disperse a group of people or individuals provided you see imminent danger to life and property, or where it is going to be violent.
We are not targeting the opposition; we are following the constitution.
Other musicians like Bebe Cool, Judith Babirye sing about politics and they are not stopped. Why did you ban Bobi Wine’s (Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi) music shows?
We are not against Hon Kyagulanyi or Bobi Wine. Nobody is against him. And we have been working closely. But he had a show in Busabala beach, we agreed with him to stick to his music show and not to consult or incite [people against the age-limit bill].
But at about midnight, he started consulting. Remember with consultation, according to the Public Order Management Act, there is a time frame from 7am to 7pm. But he was conducting an opinion poll at 11pm, saying those in favour, raise your hand. That is how we came into conflict with him.
Are you worried of his politics?
We are not against his politics; many people sing political songs but our concern is about incitement and making sure he is within the law. He had a show in Mukono, which we first stopped and investigated.
We think it is going to be resolved once he gets an understanding with us on how to conduct himself...
Why does police always arrest people during opposition consultative meetings and block some MPs from holding their rallies?
As police we agreed that the consultative meetings for MPs must be in line with the Public Order Management Act, which regulates meetings and rallies. But when these meetings started in Kampala, opposition MPs were holding joint consultative meetings.
The meetings they had in Kasubi started well but later became chaotic and we had to think twice. We realised that people coming to some of these meetings were inciting others and some were not members of those respective constituencies. That is how we came up with the rule that every MP must consult in her or his constituency.
Why does police respond fast to political issues like arresting opposition leaders but slow to respond to [crime]?
We respond to all cases. We have had cases of murder of women, and we have responded quickly, arrested the suspects and taken them to court. It’s not about politics.
Murder involves a lot of investigation, it is a process and takes some time to resolve and yet for opposition activities, sometimes you interact with them immediately when they are doing things that are unlawful. Sometimes when we are resolving them quickly, people say we target them, which is not the case.
The issue is about working within the law. If you work within the law there is no conflict.
Besides politics, what other challenges are you facing in police?
Fighting crime needs partnerships and we have different policing models we are applying like community policing.
Sometimes it is not easy to bring people on board and sensitize them about security; others are not interested, although it has helped bridge the gap between community and police.
Professional competence of officers is important, which means more refresher courses since Kampala is so demanding and needs people who are physically fit. You have to train officers regularly and we have started this at Kigo Marine base.
Why are you reluctant to whip the errant boda boda riders in the city?
In some countries, boda bodas are organised, have gazetted stages and wear reflector jackets properly marked for easy identification but that is lacking here and KCCA must handle this. [otherwise], we arrest the undisciplined ones and sensitize them about the dangers of riding badly.
What can you say about the ongoing arrests of senior police officers?
The Police Spokesperson AIGP Asan Kasigye is the only one in police given the authority to talk about them.
How do you spend your leisure time?
It’s rare to get leisure time, but on Sundays I go to church and pray and also meet my family.