While meeting crime preventers on Wednesday in Kampala, President Museveni decreed that the lot passes as a ‘reserve force of the UPDF”.
However, the statement raised a lot of dust with many critics questioning what law was informing Museveni to babble on about turning the ambiguous number of crime preventers into a reserve force.
Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party strongman Dr Kizza Besigye laughed off the idea, saying that Museveni cannot afford a reserve force when he has failed to maintain the real force.
“If he can not pay the regular force, how will he handle the reserve force. The army that he is talking about for which they (crime preventers) are a reserve is a desperate one,” Besigye said.
Lawyer and activist, Andrew Karamaji questioned what law supports Museveni’s argument.
“If they sat to organize themselves in such formations, it’s okay but they shouldn’t arrogate themselves other responsibilities like preventing crime. We must run public affairs by the law. They’re a threat, they have no known uniform, no budget line, we don’t know the command structure, we don’t know how police officers relate with them. The regional events that have happened are giving us reason to be worried, this is a threat and if we must have another force, it must be done in the law,” he said.
However, UPDF spokesperson Brig Richard Karemire said that the force is ready to kick start preparations aimed at recruiting the Crime Preventers into the reserve force.
Karemire said that the army will reorganize the crime preventers into a clear structure prerequisite to becoming a reserve force.
“Once these crime preventers come on board, they could be retrained or reorganized such that they fall under a clear structure,” he said.
“Under section 6 of the UPDF Act, such people as trained under article 17 of the constitution are one of the sources of our reserves, therefore these crime preventers legally qualify to be a source of reserves for the UPDF who can be called upon when need arises,” he added.
Karemire said that the crime preventers will be handed over to the reserve forces commander Maj Gen Charles Otema for refining. He also hinted that the force will work around the clock to ensure there is remuneration for the group.
However, Karamagi disagreed, saying that the crime preventers are not quoted by law as source to feed the reserve force.
“The UPDF Act talks about sources of the reserve forces and from all the sources, the crime preventers are unknown in all the of the UPDF sources of reserve. This isn’t an isolated incident. This is an undefined group, that’s why you hear that today they’re based with the police then later with the UPDF, “he said.
“Crime preventers will follow the UPDF chain of command in terms of reporting. This could be in combat or any operation aimed at defending territorial sovereignty or any other functions in supporting in terms of disaster,” Karemire said.
By Sheila Tusiime Mugisha