Uganda Police Chief Martin Okoth Ochola has admitted that Police failed to track phones of Susan Magara killers for 21days, attributing the failure on the use of outdated equipment.
Ochola made the admission today while appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, where the Force had appeared to provide responses to issues raised in the 19thannual report by the Uganda Human Rights Commission.
In his submission, the Inspector General of Police revealed plans by Uganda Police Force to make amendments to the Police Act, to scrap off the 48hour mandatory rule within which to release suspects.
Ochola told Parliament that whereas there is no reason why a chicken thief should be kept in the Police cells for more than 48hours, some crimes are heinous, and if suspects are released within the constitutional time, this would likely jeopardize investigations.
Ochola explained: “Why should a chicken thief be arrested and kept for more than 48hours? There is absolutely no reason. Why should a person be arrested on a crime that can be bonded by the Police stay beyond 48hours? Just as you express fears, Government also has fears. There are crimes which you can’t in anyway resolve or investigate before you make an arrest, sometimes that arrest is part of the investigation process.”
The Police boss cited an example of slain accountant Susan Magara who was kidnapped and later killed by her abductors, despite paying ransom, saying if Police had good equipment in place at the time, the deceased’s life could have been saved.
“We failed for 21 days to trace the suspects, we agree this is a big failure on our part, it may not be necessarily because of the personnel, but because of the tools and methods that we were using. Our failure as Police is a failure as a country maybe if Police had better equipment, better proportion for the population, maybe we would have traced that person and found him earlier,” Okoth said.
In its report to Parliament, the Commission called on both the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Police to invest in the use of forensic investigations, equip and train Police in the Use of modern investigative mechanisms including setting up a specialized unit to investigate crimes of torture.
Police told the Committee that the issue has been undertaken with plans to acquire the state of the art software called the Integrated Ballistic Information System to allow Police experts develop a database for all firearms in the country.
Okoth also said that plans are underway to acquire 136 Scenes of Crime kits and various consumables; master crime scene kits, sexual assault kit as well as train officers in the same field, where 200 are undergoing training out of the required 2000.
The decay in Police’s investigation skills was further brought to light by newly appointed Kampala Metropolitan Police Commander Moses Kafeero, who blamed the increase in kidnaps across the country on the new tactics acquired by the kidnappers who are now using phones of the victims.
Kafeero confessed that the technology in Police’s possession doesn’t enable the Force track the kidnappers once the phone is switched off as the mast cannot detect these phones.
He cited the example of the recent kidnap-murder case of Rose Nakiseeka whose phone was used by the kidnappers and each moment the phone was switched off, Police lost track of the kidnappers’ whereabouts.
“This system of tracking works when the phone is on so you keep tracking the mast and when is off you can travel anywhere and the mast can’t detect. However, they could switch it on ask for ransom and when the ransom is sent they switch it off again,” Kafeero said.
However, the Metropolitan boss’ remarks attracted angry harsh rebuke and angry stares from his boss, Deputy IGP Muzeeyi Sabiiti, whose message was received clearly, forcing Kafeero to shut up on the matter.
The Human Rights report also blamed Police for continued use of the bucket waste disposal system in its Police station, a practice the Force bosses admitted still exists.
The Force however revealed that elaborate steps have been taken to phase out this system with the new requirements put in place to ensure that all police stations built in the last several years have toilet facilities clearly provided to ensure that the bucket system becomes history.
By Stella Mugoya