Uganda: Maj. Gen. Lokech’s Policing Strategy

Kampala, Uganda — At a press briefing last week, Maj. Gen. Paul Lokech, the deputy Inspector General of Police, seemed to have scored a public relations coup for the police force when he broke down the arrest and killing of suspects in the attempted assassination on Gen. Katumba Wamala in June.

However it was not long before the arrested suspects showed up at the Nakawa Chief Magistrates Court on July 8 showing signs of torture and grievous bodily harm at the hands of security agents while in detention. The incident appeared to take the air out of Lokech’s well-orchestrated campaign.

The torture has already been seized on by lawyers and human rights activists as a well-worn path by police while dealing with suspects.

Meanwhile, until that press conference held on July 01 and 02, it seemed almost impossible for police to apprehend notorious hit men on motorcycles that have killed a number of high ranking Ugandans in gruesome shootings.

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In a surveillance operation and manhunt that stretched over three weeks since the attack, Lokech said the Police had arrested four suspects and killed some; including Hussein Wahab Lubwama aka Master.

Lokech told journalists that Master is the assassin who emerged from behind Katumba’s vehicle and positioned himself on the right side and pulled the trigger on Katumba’s daughter and driver, killing them instantly on the morning of June 1 at Kisota Road in Kisaasi, Kampala. Master was the one seen in CCTV footage dressed in a blue-striped T-shirt with a rider wearing orange outfits.

Master believed Katumba was right behind the driver at the time of the attack. New CCTV footage displayed by Lokech and his aides show the man they are calling Master and his rider whom the police chief named as Juma Sayyid starting their attack on the junction of Bahai Road in Kikaya, less than a kilometer from the would be crime scene.

Lokech said Master was well trained in martial arts and was killed as he tried to fight back at the police when they swooped on him. The police is said to have killed another suspect called Mustapha Kawawa aka Amin as his relatives were reportedly at Mulago Hospital Mortuary to pick his remains.

The trail of intelligence picked up a suspect called Juma Sserwada, a chapatti seller in Namuwongo, a busy Kampala suburb, who was allegedly handed the killer guns at some point. More interrogation of the suspects allegedly led to the final hide out of the killer guns in a poultry house in Namuwongo. Lokech displayed two Sub Machine Guns (SMGs) and one pistol.

According to Lokech, the home where the poultry house was, turned out to be that of Sayyid, the rider who was carrying Master, the key suspect. Lokech briefed the press after a long operation of the manhunt in the wee hours of the morning that took them to Kagoma, towards Luweero, Nansana and finally in Namuwongo.

Lokech also identified the other two riders as Mudinka and Kanaaba (aliases). Displaying the mug shots of the suspects and the guns to the media, Lokech appeared to be fully in charge of his investigation where he kept the identity of his operatives unknown. The detectives who displayed the guns were fully masked and donning black colors.

“The same cartridges from the lab indicate that it was the same cartridges that were used in the Kaweesi and Kiggundu killing,” Lokech, a soldier with stints as commander of Ugandan troops in South Sudan and Somalia declared. “All guns have different characteristics; they are not the same,” he added while at the briefing.

ADF link

Lokech also linked the suspects to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a shadowy rebel group operating in eastern DR Congo whose actual strength remains a mystery. He however said ADF has cells in Kampala. Lokech also revealed the identity of the master mind of the attack as a one Sheikh Obadia who remains on the run. “He is the one who recruited all of them,” he said of Obadiah while holding up his mug shot.

President Museveni while swearing in ministers on July 8 at Kololo Independence Grounds said the ADF adopted the method of assassination in 2018. He said the way forward is to dismantle the terror cells which are using unconventional methods like using boda bodas to kill their targets.

As the police revelled in the arrest and killing of some of the suspects, some asked why police was in the past apparently clueless on the assassins who could have also participated in the killings of AIGP Felix Kaweesi and Maj. Kiggundu since the killer gun is said to be the common denominator in the killings. Former Inspector General of Police Gen. Kale Kayihura was accused of stifling the criminal intelligence role of the Police instead choosing to focus on political intelligence.

When Kaweesi was killed in 2017, a dozen suspects were arrested and later shipped off to Nalufenya police station in Jinja where they were tortured to confess to the crime.

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When Joan Kagezi, a principal senior state prosecutor, was killed in 2015, police released composite images of the suspects and it was the last the public heard from them on the matter. When Kiggundu was killed at dawn in late 2016, the general theory was that he was taken out by his former compatriots since he was a former member of the ADF. Police appear to have never got into much of the investigation.

At the time, then police chief Kayihura was embattled. In August, a mob allied to him stormed Makindye court that had summoned him for a criminal trial. However Kayihura was also allegedly engaged in a rivalry with Grace Akullo, the director of the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID). Critics of Kayihura and the police said Kayihura’s battle to dominate and outshine his subordinates lowered morale and frustrated numerous investigations by Police.

Battered by the President and the public, the Police have not had many allies in their fight against crime in the country.

Others say the killing of some of the Katumba attack suspects kills vital clues in the logical conclusion of these cases. On the two days he briefed the press, Lokech said technical and human intelligence were key in netting some of the suspects. A week after the failed assignation of Katumba, Lokech admitted the slow response to the incident from the police force during a press briefing. “I had time to walk from the scene of crime to the residence of Gen. Katumba, it was 4.1km,” he said, “Not even a single camera was on that road.”

Go on and prosecute

However Mathias Mpuuga, the Leader of Opposition (LOP) in Parliament, advises caution for the police. “As a lawyer, I can only praise a prosecutor after successful prosecution. An arrest is a partial process,” he says, “The danger is if police does not take precaution.”

Mpuuga also raises a query on the fact that some suspects were killed. “So if they had a clue and you put them out of action… that is not even language of the police, it is of the military.”

He states that the language used puts one’s intentions in perspective. Mpuuga says previous actions of the police leave it with a lot of backlog. “We did not see Kaweesi suspects prosecuted. Instead, the suspects went to court suing the police for torture and wrongful prosecution.”

Mpuuga adds, “All of us are potential victims.” He says all too often police investigations are haphazard and he hopes that police uses the right and appropriate measures to get justice. “A murder prosecution is usually a dicey case to handle.”

He concludes: “I am waiting at the end of the day to see a prosecution.”

The LOP’s fears were confirmed when the arrested suspects showed up in court displaying signs of torture. The suspects’ lawyer Geoffrey Turyamusiima said they should be sent to Mulago Hospital for treatment because of the state they were in.

Some sections of the public have already accused Lokech of exhibiting Islamophobia, an accusation that was also levelled at Kayihura and the security apparatus in general. They seized on his comments addressing journalists when he said ADF can only recruit one if they are a Muslim. “If you are not, they will convert you.”

In April 2018, Police commandos raided Usafi Mosque in Kisenyi, downtown Kampala acting on intelligence that the mosque was a training ground for terrorism and also harbouring a wanted fugitive responsible for the murder of Susan Magara who was kidnapped in January that year and killed a few weeks later.

Police said it arrested 38 men and also claimed to have collected several rounds of ammunition. Most of those arrested were Muslims and there was a strong backlash from Muslim clerics and lawmakers accusing security forces of Muslim profiling.

At his press briefing on July 1, Lokech said, “My heart is at peace knowing justice has been done.” However the torture of arrested suspects and the seeming tendency of religious profiling means the police is struggling to shake off old habits and the deputy police chief Lokech could still have a long road ahead.


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Author : Independent (Kampala)

Publish date : 2021-07-14 10:59:51

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