The Inspector General of Police (IGP), John Martins Okoth Ochola, has issued guidelines for gun use during police operations highlighting the nature and force to be used by police officers in Uganda.
The guidelines issued are in response to President Yoweri Museveni’s directive to draft operation procedures that will be followed by all police officers and personnel from sister agencies during field duties.
In a directive issued on September 8, Museveni directed Ochola to come up with procedures on gun use for police, Local Defence Units (LDU’s) and private security organizations. This was in response to shooting incidents that had been registered during NRM primaries.
The set of 17 new guidelines Ochola issued to all police commanders and their juniors, detail use of force, use of firearms, use of lethal force, policing public meetings and investigating armed confrontations.
Police commanders have been directed to always control their men in the area and shall ensure that no innocent person or by-stander is caught in the crossfire during security operations.
Commanders, according to Ochola, should ensure the degree of force employed depends upon the number of aggressors, nature and characteristic of the weapons, other circumstances such as the place and location of the assault.
Firearms must only be used in situations of self-defence and other circumstances where an order cannot be restored or a specific duty performed unless firearms are used. The situation must be hostile as to justify the use of firearms,” Ochola states in the new guidelines.
Even when situations warrant the use of firearms, Ochola says commanders must ensure firing only aimed shots, be conscious of innocent by-standers, avoid collateral damage and stop firing as soon as the situation justifying the shooting normalizes.
Ochola further indicates that the force used must be proportionate to the attacking force. All policemen and women are restrained from responding to stone-throwers and those using abusive language, with bullets.
“If stones, bottles are being thrown at the police or abusive and provocative language, such would not justify the use of firearms. If force must be used, non-lethal weapons should be employed,” Ochola stated.
In a strong-worded letter to Ochola, indicated that there was a need to stop random shooting by police and LDUs under the command of the police. Museveni cited incidents in NRM primaries in Katakwi, where people had been shot yet they were fighting among themselves.
According to standing orders for police, personnel in operation are directed to make sure the force used must be authorized by law including use of batons, teargas, water cannons, handcuffs and teaser guns.
Ochola notes that individual police personnel must be prepared to account for the force used which means the law enforcement officer must explain the choice of the preferred force used in that particular situation.