NewsEast & Horn AfricaUganda: UN agency seeks clarity on crime preventers unit


Posted on Friday, 11 December 2015 13:46

Uganda: UN agency seeks clarity on crime preventers unit

By Godfrey Olukya

A crime preventers unit on paradeThe United Nations Human Rights Council has raised concern at the training of "crime preventers" in Uganda, as it says there needs to be a regulatory framework governing their operations.

A month-long training of tens of thousands of unemployed youth under the crime preventers programme by Ugandan police has raised fear their conduct is often crass and characterised by harassment and impunity.

We suspect the timing of the recruitment of the crime preventers was meant for sinister reasons

Inspector General of Police General Kale Kayihura said the force planned to recruit up to 1 million crime preventers. The crime preventers programme is seen as reducing Uganda's high youth unemployment figures, estimated at 62%.

The United Nations Human Rights Council country representative, Uchenna Emelonye says there are a number of gaps in the formation, creation and operations of this group, with fears they could violate the rights of Ugandans.

"There is need for the government of Uganda to define the actions and activities that a crime preventer can engage in," he said.

Human Rights Network (HURINET) executive director, Muhammed Ndifuuna questioned the steps employed by the state in the unit's selection process, arguing that the process makes the group "a police driven section" rather "than a public serving driven section".

Ndifuuna called for a serious review of the way this unit is set up and operates. "We suspect the timing of the recruitment of the crime preventers was meant for sinister reasons," he says.

Experts say the unit poses a security threat. Ndifuuna argued that for genuine reasons, members of the public, and not the police, should be involved in the selection process before the training in line with the country's constitution, which says the police can "cooperate with civilian authorities and other security organs established under this constitution and with the population generally".

The human rights defender said the so-called crime preventers should first "be accountable to members of the public and not the police."

In recent weeks, several opposition political parties and non-governmental organisations have complained about the recruitment of youths into what they claim is a militia being set up to harass members of the public ahead of the 2016 elections.

They claim government is recruiting people into the group under the guise of recruiting crime preventers.

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