Rwanda and Uganda police chiefs strengthen fight against crime
On Thursday last week, Rwanda’s Inspector General of Police and his Ugandan counterpart signed a Memorandum of Understanding, with Emmanuel Gasana and Kale Kayihura vowing to move beyond commitment and embark on real action against major crimes threatening the two countries.
The signing of the MoU followed a two-day meeting between delegates from both forces. Among the resolutions that the two forces have committed themselves to are collaboration in the management of both natural and man-made disasters, enhance safety and security on the Northern corridor, share timely intelligence information, plan and conduct joint operations, identify common training needs and conduct joint training, as well as ensuring mutual assistance in tracking down, arresting, and extradition of criminals.
The document also stated that the two forces will ensure sharing of experience and best practices in combating gender-based violence (GBV), road safety and traffic management, ICT sharing to combat cyber crime and figure out ways of developing community policing.
“Rwanda and Uganda are not just geographical neighbors but countries that share the same challenges of negative forces as well as emerging crimes such as terrorism, human and drugs trafficking that affect our people and national development agenda,” said IGP Emmanuel Gasana.
And while General Kale Kayihura was impressed by the level of public order in Rwanda, he attributed it to a cultural trait and general nature of Rwandans who he said are more compliant with the law than Ugandans.
The Ugandan Police force on the contrary is currently facing one of its most trying times dealing with almost daily street protests led by opposition parties. Starting early last year as peaceful demonstrations against high commodity prices, the so-called ‘walk to work’ protests have often resulted in violence culminating into not only loss of civilian lives but most recently even policemen who have become a target of the protesters accusing officers of being pro-government and brutal.
“Our forces definitely face different challenges and experiences from which we draw lessons on how to cope better like the way we have managed to defeat those walk-to-work protests whose organizers have been hiding behind freedom of expression to advance a dangerous agenda against the Government,” explained Kayihura, who has been accused by the civil society and human rights activists of militarizing the police through the brutal arrest of protesters.
This MOU follows a previous meeting between the two forces held in Kigali in July 2011 where the same challenges were discussed but action in implementing them has been lacking which explains why the two forces emphasized shifting focus from just making resolutions to action.
One of the reasons for the lack of implementation of past resolutions has been an unbalanced commitment and efforts from both forces. For example, in road safety and traffic management, the Ugandan side has been accused of being lenient with offenders with officers accepting bribes hence compromising action against errant drivers.
For instance, drivers of the Kigali-Kampala buses have been accused by several travelers of becoming unruly and careless on the road whenever they get to the Ugandan side of the rout.
“Rwanda and Uganda are not just geographical neighbors but countries that share the same challenges of negative forces as well as emerging crimes such as terrorism, human and drugs trafficking.”
Also, just recently, the Rwandan police arrested two men who were almost trafficking three girls to China and on interrogation, they revealed to police that they do so through Uganda. The same has been said by bodies like the UN over drugs trafficking with culprits allegedly favoring the Ugandan route because of the weak laws and ease with which they bribe their way out of trouble.
The Ugandan police force is also ranked as one of the most corrupt in the region while that of Rwanda is praised as one of the cleanest making the partnership between the two forces appear very odd.
This laxity and accusations of corruption could therefore jeopardize initiatives to collaborate on joint action against crime but Uganda’s Police boss disagrees. “It’s true we have been accused of laxity on crime and corruption among our officers but I want to promise my Rwandan counterpart that we are committed to ensuring that these resolutions work,” Kale Kayihura said.
He added that in a move to curb corruption, several traffic officers have been arrested and as a result improved the image and reputation of the traffic police department.
What will probably be of great interest for Rwanda would be the resolution that promises mutual assistance in tracking down, arresting and extradition of fugitives of justice. Rwanda suspects that there could still be numerous Genocide perpetrators hiding in Uganda and would be grateful for any help to apprehend them.
As such, the collaboration between police forces is a sign of the ever-improving relations between Rwanda and Uganda, although General Kayihura saw an even wider interest.
“Bilateral relations such as this help strengthen the bigger East African Federation,” he noted.