Legal experts push for comprehensive discussion on Sebutinde Commission’s proposals

Legal experts push for comprehensive discussion on Sebutinde Commission’s proposals
Legal experts push for comprehensive discussion on Sebutinde Commission’s proposals

Africa-Press – Uganda. Legal experts have called on Parliament to revive the discussion on the proposed reforms put forward by various commissions of inquiry, particularly the Justice Julia Sebutinde Commission, which aims to reform the police force.

They suggest that this matter should be taken up by the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs, which are responsible for police reforms, accountability, and human rights.

One of the key recommendations of the Sebutinde Commission is the establishment of an independent and impartial Police Service Commission, with a strong focus on civilian oversight.

This commission would comprise civilians who would oversee the recruitment, appointments, and promotions of police personnel.

The commission also calls for the inclusion of civilians in the police complaints desk, tasked with receiving and investigating alleged human rights violations and misconduct by police officers.

The appeal was voiced during the national symposium on the rule of law, human rights, and policing in Uganda, conducted under the theme: “Police accountability reform initiative in Uganda: Assessing accomplishments and challenges,” coinciding with the release of findings by legal experts.

The study aimed to identify and document the initiatives for reforming the Uganda Police Force since 1986, their objectives, context, and the issues they sought to address in order to create a democratic, accountable, people-centered, effective, and efficient national police force.

James Nkuubi, a researcher at Network of Public Interest Lawyers (NEPTIL) acknowledged the challenges faced by the police force and the circumstances under which it operates, often resembling a military presence.

He emphasised the need for reforms that would lead to demilitarization and bring the focus back to the civilian population.

“We are exploring the possibility of advocating for a private member’s bill to establish a Police Service Commission. These recommendations arose from judicial inquiries and presidential directives, which are meant to guide the nation. Therefore, we are looking to reform the law and specifically include this civilian aspect by creating a public services commission,” said Nkuubi.

He noted that Justice Sebutinde even specified the number of individuals who could serve on the commission, emphasising the importance of including civilians from all walks of life, as long as they possess integrity and a good reputation in the country.

“We believe that one of the missing elements in reforming the police institutions is the involvement of Ugandans themselves. The Ugandan people should have a say in shaping the police force, rather than leaving it solely to the military and the executive to manipulate as they wish. We are calling for the rejuvenation and transformation of the police into a people-centered, democratic, accountable, and responsive institution that meets the aspirations of all Ugandans,” he added.

Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi, the Member of Parliament for Butambala County, encouraged individuals who are committed to reforming the police force to take action. He stressed the importance of genuine Ugandans engaging in open discussions with President Museveni.

“We are talking about a president who is now 86 years old. The reality is that the specter of death looms over him every day. We need to have this conversation. Can we be certain that Vice President Jessica Alupo will freely assume office {in the absence of President Museveni}, or will it be Muhoozi Kainerugaba? This is a discussion we must have, and as senior citizens, we need to engage President Museveni on the realities of life,” he stated.

Dr. John Kamya, the head of curriculum and doctrine at the Uganda Police, expressed their commitment to upholding the rule of law and stated that they are satisfied with their efforts.

“We are conducting policing in the most civilized and popular manner. You only need to observe other countries to see how their police handle their citizens. We are developing our doctrine, and the process is underway,” he said.

Kamya added that those interested in police reforms should take the lead in driving these efforts. He also highlighted that the police force has its own authority, headed by the Minister of Internal Affairs, which provides them with a level of comfort.

According to the findings, when the NRM assumed power in 1986, the government initiated discussions on police reforms, introducing numerous proposals aimed at making the police force more accountable and inclusive, with civilian participation at the forefront. However, the legal experts argue that the majority of these reforms have not been implemented.

The findings also indicate that Parliament has been inconsistent in implementing resolutions related to police accountability, often due to the vetoing of such initiatives by NRM MPs.

The monetization and commercialization of politics in the country have further complicated the situation, allowing the executive to exert influence through monetary donations and appointments to secure support from Members of Parliament.

This erosion of independence undermines the key aspects of oversight and accountability.

Nkuubi emphasised that while this study focused on external mechanisms of accountability and oversight, with a focus on strengthening civilian involvement, there is also a need to examine the government’s progress in implementing internal reforms emerging from previous initiatives.

A comprehensive research effort is crucial to assess the feasibility of the recommendations in light of the evolving political landscape and policing roles.

It will also help identify progress, setbacks, and potential solutions to ensure the implementation of these reforms.

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