I keenly listened to the address to Parliament by H.E, the President on the issues of security in the country. All the measures that the President outlined as plans by which government intends to fight crime and insecurity in the country are definitely welcome and should bring hope and reassurance to the wananchi.
However, for those measures to work to effectively tackle the insecurity that the country has been plunged into lately there must be other fundamental issues that must be sorted out.
Urban streamlining and organization:
For a long time, Kampala, the capital city of this country has been deliberately left to develop and evolve organically.
Although, this approach has seen a marked increase in housing structures and urbanization, the many unplanned building structures that have been left to emerge all over the place, have now rendered Kampala a squalid type of city.
This is a city where many residential structures have no access roads, the structures are not marked or numbered (addressed) and many don’t have alternative exits to a main road.
Apart from these residential areas being in squalid conditions, they are just difficult to access even by the security personnel in case of responding to a crime incident or following up on a potential criminal cell. Surveillance in such a situation becomes very difficult even by electronic devices like the UAVs (Drones) or CCTV cameras.
The situation therefore, calls for strengthening the urban planning regulations, tougher and non discriminatory sanctions applied where there is breach.
The long awaited postal addressing system in the city and all urban centres should be implemented. We shall not be able to fight crime if those who are supposed to protect citizens don’t have a clue of who lives where.
Rule of law:
In order for the said proposed measures to work more effectively, there must be a deliberate and sustained campaign by government to ensure that there is a return to the rule of law.
Although, the rule of law is talked about almost daily, the truth of the matter is that most the citizens have thrown away the respect for the law.
This state of affairs is exhibited most prominently in the way the wananchi particularly those in the urban centres conduct themselves and their attitude towards public infrastructure.
It is not any secret that a lot of public infrastructure such as street lights, road cabs and road signages have been consistently vandalised unabated.
Mere condemning of these behaviours without accompanying it with strict crack down and following it up with deterrent sanctions won’t render the suggested measures enough biting desired impact.
Regulation of Boda Boda business:
As the President has ably reiterated on several occasions, the boda boda business must be fully regulated. If need be, government working with KCCA and the respective town authorities all over the country, should establish a separate and fully empowered body to regulate this business.
As we all know it now, any attempts to streamline this business over years, has been thwarted by populist political interferences, conflict of business interests and sometimes connivance by security personnel.
It is a known fact that soon before or during an election cycle, the Boda boda operators particularly here in Kampala, do exploit this political populism to get many of the guidelines and regulations set up by the city authorities in an attempt to streamline that business, either discredited, condemned and set aside altogether.
This kind of populist patronage for political gains needs to be checked in order to allow the regulations instituted to take root. That is the only way there can be discipline in this industry.
Boda boda business is meant to be for the unemployed wananchi who engage in this rather petty transport business to provide for their families.
Most of these boda boda people ideally should have been those who own their motorcycles and ride them themselves. However, as it is, the bulk of the boda boda riders are simply hired who ride someone else’s motorcycles.
That in itself would not be a big problem, however, it is reported that there are many big or prominent people in this country who have cashed in on this business.
It is not difficult to find that one person owns more than 20 motorcycles and spread out at different stages in town. In most cases, such a person might already be employed somewhere or owns a business in town or is employed within government and wields some authority.
These are the people who normally and usually thwart any efforts geared at streamlining the boda boda business. They look at any attempt to streamline this industry as a direct interference in their business. To them, it is the money gain that supersedes everything else.
Registration of all boda bodas is a must and needs to be expedited. In order for this business to be streamlined, there must be very strict regulations that must be applied without any discrimination as to who might be the owner or involved. For example, clearly numbered helmets must be implemented. The helmets must be of one and same brand, fashion, design and colour.
This can help not only to differentiate legitimate boda boda operators from the other ordinary people who ride motorcycles, but also this uniformity brings tidiness, order and colour to the business as a whole. Different towns may opt for different colours patterns of both the helmet and the reflector jackets.
The current situation whereby each boda boda cyclist buys whichever, normally junk helmets of any design and colour is not only anti security sensitive, but also brings chaos on the roads.
Measures should be put in place which promote tidiness and good health in the boda boda business so that this industry can start to be viewed as a respectable business and not for criminality.
Digitizing Police Crime Records:
On several times, police authorities have observed that most of the criminal elements that have been suspected in most crimes have been actually involved in several other crimes or have been arrested before.
Thus, they are not in most cases first time offenders but seasoned or repeated crime perpetrators. So one wonders why such well known elements continue to elude police or why they continue to be let on the streets and in villages continuously!
Therefore, in order to address this sort of challenge, there is need to digitize the records of police in order to be able to easily track this trend of repetitive criminality.
The process of digitization should start with the Police Incidence Book at the Police Station crime report desk. Secondly, once any suspect is arrested, finger prints, DNA samples and photos must be taken, recorded and stored in a database.
These individual databases at every Police Station must be networked with the main National Police Database. After a specified interval of time, this database is then updated nationwide into the main National Database.
Government, then, in addition to providing the CCTVs on the roads, should provide hand held database readers to the Police officers in operations and roads.
These gadgets will enable these Police officers to quickly access the Police database for verification of identity and criminal history of any suspect at given time.
National Identification System:
Although, currently we have a National Identification system in place, there are various gaps that need to be plugged if the National IDs that are given out are to enhance the fight against criminality.
For example, there is need to address the legal lacuna that currently exists in the full operationalisation of the National Identification System.
While framing the NITA-U Act, the intent and spirit was for NITA to be the host for the National Database to which NIRA, URSB and other government agencies like Police, Military, Land Registration, URA, UIA would be contributors and consumers of that secure stored data.
However, due to the unforeseen lacuna in the law, there is currently a polarisation as to which agency should host this national database.
This vagueness in the law has made it difficult for NITA to assert its intended mandate and has often resulted in a seeming standoff between NITA and the Uganda Citizens and Immigration Board.
This polarisation should be quickly resolved. The basis for resolving this standoff should be that if an agency is going to be a user of the data, then technical logic is that consuming agency cant host the database itself.
This should be the function of a technical regulator with the capacity to offer unfettered but secure access to the database by the intended users.
Continuous influx of foreigners:
It is a fact that Uganda is a hospitable country which currently hosts scores of refugees from many neighboring countries. This hospitality is in line with our ideology of Pan Africanism.
However, in extending this hospitality, there is an urgent need for us to excise caution; otherwise wrong elements will continue to take advantage of this blind generosity in order to cause criminality and insecurity to our people.
Currently, it is not hard to find scores of foreigners who came to this country and registered as refugees, in city residential areas as entrenched bona fide residents.
The sad thing is that in urban centers like the major towns, these foreigners are never asked or required to register themselves.
Even the people in that particular residential locality don’t get to know who they are, where they came from or what their status is in the country. Actually it is only in Uganda that such a laissez faire attitude towards refugees is taken!
Another category of foreigners with which we have thrown out our generosity blindly is that of the so called investors. As it has been pointed out on numerous occasions by the down town traders, there are individuals who have abused or who have been helped by others, to abuse our general national thirst for investors.
It is not a secrete that in this country, we have scores of unregistered (without permits) foreigners who came or who were let in the country on the pretence that they are investors, yet in actual fact they are simply job and fortune hunters.
Many of these people have been caught up in cases of criminality and insecurity. Without proper documentation and regulation of these people, security will always find it a challenge to follow them up in case there is a case of insecurity.
One thing that needs to be noted is that this kind of people doesn’t only cause insecurity of the country as a whole, but also that they are actually causing job and livelihood insecurity to many of our own people.
Uganda has now become an export or dumping destination for job seekers and treasure hunters from Asia. Of course this comes with various security risks particularly in regard to these people we take in but whose life backgrounds we just don’t know.
Corruption, unemployment and loss of hope:
In discussing the measures that need to undertaken to address the issues of criminality and insecurity, there is no way one can ignore to talk about some of the key factors that bring about or perpetuate criminality and fuel insecurity.
Rampant and entrenched corruption that not only erodes the moral fiber of a country, but in the process also erodes any rays of hope for those multitudes of people outside the thieving syndicate to have any hope of ever getting any feel of a better and prosperous life is one that greatly contributes to a hike in crime in society.
When people despair, the net result is to resort to criminality. We have and continue to see this direct correlation.
In short, government must do whatever it takes to at least be seen to be addressing this scourge of corruption. This fight must be concerted, consistent and not selective.
Institutions that are mandated to fight corruption must be strengthened beyond mere rhetoric for mere Public relations. Those that are found to be lacking in effectiveness must be restructured and reconstituted in order to weed out those that might have been already compromised by the thieves.
No case of corruption, impropriety and non conformity with the laid down accountability procedures should ever be exempted or even exonerated from shouldering failure in responsibility and hence sanction.
Kampala city and its environs which used to have only one million people a few years ago, now is estimated to be having close to 4 million people at anyone given time of the day.
This situation which has been caused by people leaving villages to come find survival in Kampala is not only exerting pressure on the insufficient social services available, but also perpetuates crime.
Most of the people to the city are undocumented and unprofiled at all even in the places that they have relocated within the city. Most of them actually end up in the slum areas where the proposed CCTV cameras or UAVs will never be given the slightest chance to function.
In order to address this increasing problem of urban inertia, government must deliberately plan to develop, upgrade and improve the current squalid state of affairs in most of the towns in the country.
This should be done and geared to create an environment that dissuades particularly the youths from looking at Kampala as the only place where one can make a survival or make it in life.
In summary, of course fighting crime and insecurity is a far big task for only government alone. It must be a fight that embraces us all as the citizenry and has our uncompromising vigilance and patriotism. Government must do its part and we the citizens must equally play our role in making our communities and nation safe from crime and insecurity.