The new Deputy Inspector General of Police Maj Gen Paul Loketch has issued an assume that of the general security situation in the country and assured the public of a peaceful festive season and general election thereafter.
With barely four days in office, Gen Loketch said the country remains calm as people celebrate Christmas but that police and sister security agencies are also preparing to have a peaceful general election slated for January 14 and ensure they are capable of protecting the lives and property of the people of Uganda.
Gen Lokech, who replaced Maj Gen Sabiiti Muzeeyi, is a battle-hardened soldier, having played a key role in flushing out Al Shabaab from Mogadishu and eventual stabilization of Somalia.
He spoke at his first security briefing on Thursday since he took over office from his predecessor at Police headquarters in Kampala.
He said a peaceful election requires a partnership between the law enforcement body and the population.
“Of course, we shall have other challenges but I would like to assure all Ugandans that we are going to have peaceful elections,” said Loketch.
“I would like to also assure Ugandans that even after elections, Uganda still will be peaceful – so this is actually my message to everybody,” he assured.
“I have just been to the job just three days ago and I am trying to internalize the challenges at hand that my job comes with but I know with cooperation of everybody we can always do the best to ensure that there’s security for everybody in the country,” said Loketch.
While commenting on the election period in the country, Loketch warned various political candidates especially presidential candidates against violating the laws and guidelines put in place by the Electoral Commission and Ministry of Health in regards to campaigns during the pandemic.
Loketch said all persons contesting for presidency should at all times lead by example since they are presidents in waiting.
He emphasised that politicians should not risk the lives of Ugandans by holding mass rallies which experts say are super spreaders of COVID-19.
He said violations of these guidelines will lead to firm responses by the law enforcement body since no one is above the law.
Despite issuing several warnings to presidential candidates to stop holding campaign rallies, these activities are yet to be stopped.
It is a violation of the Campaign Guidelines for a candidate and his/her agents to mobilize and/or encourage supporters to gather at campaign venues in large numbers as it contravenes The Public Health (Control of COVID-19) (Amendment No.3) Rules, 2020, issued on 9th November 2020, which provides that gatherings for purposes of political meetings should not exceed two hundred (200) persons.
He also pledged to investigate the cause of the fighting between bodyguards of presidential candidate John Katumba and security personnel in Fort Portal.
Gen Lokech also spoke about the November riots in Kampala that followed the arrest of NUP presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi in which more than 50 people died, saying “the incident was uncalled for from both sides.”
Observers say Loketch faces an uphill task of managing public order during a heated presidential election campaign.
The opposition movements have stepped up their activism and President Museveni is keen on addressing this situation.
Museveni also has expressed concern about the role of the western communities in tormenting political violence in the country.
At his handover ceremony, Maj Gen Sabiiti said public order management has traditionally been challenging given that it usually involves balancing the interests of the political actors and rights of the innocent members of the public whose business is disrupted by often rowdy processions and rallies.
“We have used the legal tools available (Public Order Management Act) to ensure this balance is achieved,” said Sabiiti.
“One setback that we have experienced is the ruling by the Court of Appeal in March 2020 that nullified Section 8 of the Public Order Management Act which granted the IGP or his delegate powers to stop or prevent the holding of a public meeting. We have been advised that the Attorney General is appealing this decision,” he added.
Loketch strongly warned members of the public who are fond of attacking and provoking security personnel that they will not be spared during his tenure at the law enforcement body.