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Museveni Issues New Guidelines On How To Manage Rioters, Terrorists

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museve has issued guidelines on how the country’s security forces can handle rioters, terrorists and looters.

Below is his statement


To:   Chief of Defence Forces

Uganda Peoples Defence Forces

Inspector General of Police

Uganda Police Force

Director General – ISO

Director General – ESO



I am writing to guide you and the public on the two issues of managing rioters, terrorists, criminals and looters on the one hand and on the issue of the proper methods of arresting suspects and handling them, while in custody, on the other hand.

The fundamental starting point is the NRA principle of being an army of the people, the masses (the farmers, the factory workers, the patriotic public servants and the Ugandans that are struggling to get a foothold in the emerging money economy) but also serving well the law-abiding foreigners that visit our country.  Each of these is like our father, mother, sister, brother, son, daughter or grandchild if they are Ugandans. If they are not Ugandans, then they are our honoured guests – amafura. These must never be beaten, pushed or be barked at for any reason. They should, if it is required, be advised (okuhabura) or be restrained if they are trying to go to an area where they are not supposed to be. How do you advise? By talking politely to them. How do you restrain? By stretching out your arms, while your rifle is slung at the back (not pointing a rifle at the people), indicating to the crowd that they should not go beyond a certain point. Restraining members of the public from accessing certain areas can also involve barriers or ropes.

You should never push (kutsindika) people that are enthusiastically surging forward to show support for the NRM or the President.  You should never kuteera ebigaanja (hitting on the chest of an approaching person with open palms) any member of the public.  Therefore, the bodyguards of public officials should strictly observe these rules.  They are part of the NRA Code of Conduct. They are not a new composition. The law-abiding Ugandans will respond positively and co-operate. These are a consequence of our philosophy which says that the Africans are one big family.

The above are for the law-abiding citizens of Uganda or our guests.  There are, however, rioters, criminals, looters, terrorists and traitors. Here we are guided by the legitimate aims of the security forces. What are these aims?  They are five and they are: protect the lives of Ugandans from the acts of the law-breakers; protect the property of the Ugandans; do not allow anybody to disrupt markets, centres of worship, legitimate political rallies, legitimate concert gatherings, etc.; do not allow anybody to use lies to incite the public with misinformation; and vigorously hunt and apprehend the suspected criminals.  On these, there is no compromise.  Why?  It is for three reasons.

Number one – no Ugandan should lose his life or property on account of the acts of these criminals.

Secondly, the transport of Uganda, the markets of Uganda and any other legitimate and legal assemblies of our people should never be interfered with by these criminals.

Thirdly, the image of Uganda as a stable country, good for Ugandans, tourism and investments, should never be disturbed. Firm action against trouble-makers, if manipulated by the Press of those who seek hegemony over Africa, may worry the public and frighten away tourism from some of the areas. This will be compensated for by tourists from China, Russia, Arabia, etc. Therefore, nobody should be allowed to threaten the lives of Ugandans or their property or the image of Uganda.  In the end, the Ugandans will be very happy and so will the foreigners, investors and, eventually, the tourists from all sources. Uganda should not only appear to be stable. It should be stable.

Indeed, Uganda has been stable for a long time. It will remain stable. Therefore, nobody should be allowed to threaten life, property or orderliness (obuteeka) in Uganda. If you are a critic, do so truthfully and peacefully.

How, then, do you firmly and non-lethally control rioters? I think the use of water cannons is the best way – it is strong, non-lethal and not noisy; tear-gas, rubber bullets should be discouraged because they are noisy and, sometimes, they can affect unconcerned people. All the Police forces in the world have shields and short sticks known as batons which they use to disperse hostile crowds. I have seen the Indian Police with long and knob-less (without eifuundo) sticks which they use to disperse crowds.  Which is better – the short stick or the long one and why? The Police leaders can guide us here. The water cannons, the shields, the short sticks and the long knob-less sticks are all to deal with crowds that are assembling illegally or are threatening to kill people or damage property. The role of the shields is clear. It is to protect the Police from being harmed by flying stones or other missiles (bottles, etc).

If, however, the rioters do not stop after the Police use of shields and sticks (whether long or short) and, if the water cannons that are very effective are not available, then, the Police can use live bullets by first firing in the air; but, if the rioters persist, the Police will fire directly at the rioters to protect the lives and property of the law-abiding citizens or protect themselves from the rioters.

Therefore, those who speak about this subject should know that rioters, under certain conditions, can be shot legally and can also be beaten legally and legitimately. It is, therefore, a serious miscalculation by the opportunist and criminal leaders to manipulate young people into such situations. Why do they not send their sons and daughters to riot? When it comes to suspected terrorists or murderers, running away from the arresting team is a serious mistake. You will be shot. Why?  If the Police do not disable you or kill you, they may never get another chance to catch you so that you answer for your crimes.

In the meantime, the criminal may commit more crimes. Therefore, shooting a terrorist who is running away from the security forces trying to arrest him/her, is in order not to allow him/her to escape from the forum where accountability is possible (by being tried in the courts of law) and also to protect the public against further crimes.

On the side of the security forces, I am reminding you to never do the following:

(a)     Push people who surge forward towards leaders out of enthusiasm (kutangirira); you should restrain them (kuzibira) but not push them;

(b)     You should never bark at people (kubogolela); you should advise them (kuhabura);

(c)     On rioters, you should use water cannons if they are available; if they are not available, you should use shields and sticks (short and long) as the Police will guide; tear-gas and rubber bullets are, of course, non-lethal but they are noisy; however, they cannot be ruled out;

(d)     If the rioters persist and threaten life or property, you can use live bullets, first firing in the air and, eventually, if necessary, firing at the rioters;

(e)     Once rioters are arrested or any other criminal, he/she should never be beaten by stick, fist or rifle butt. It is unfair, unnecessary and gives a bad image to the country. It is not necessary because what you want is for this criminal to pay for his sins.  How?  By being tried and sentenced. You do not have to beat him or maim him. He will be punished by being imprisoned or even hanged, if he is sentenced. You should, therefore, not play in the criminal’s hands by beating him/her so that he gains public sympathy. In what capacity are you beating the criminal? Are you the punisher?  You are not.  Your job is to detect, investigate, arrest and interrogate the suspect by using the facts of your investigations. Even if the criminal denies, the facts will pin him down.  Constitutionally, the punishers of criminals in Uganda are the courts of law.  Their punishments include long terms of imprisonment, fining wrong doers or even hanging them. Therefore, security personnel do not meddle and spoil the process.  Just do your part.

(f)      The arresting officers should always identify themselves so that the public knows that they are legal operators.

That is what I told all of you in my letter against torture of the 15th May, 2017. Therefore, the security personnel should be patient, restrained but also firm. If the criminal resists arrest, wrestle him down and handcuff him.

If he strikes you, strike back hard with fist until he stops attacking you. If he tries to use a knife, a gun, a club or any dangerous missile when you are in close proximity, shoot him so as to disable him. If he is threatening to harm wanainchi or destroy property, shoot him after due warning. It is, therefore, not necessary to make mistakes. You can be firm and decisive without making mistakes. Those who support rioters, tell them, not to endanger our people’s lives, not to endanger the lives of the security personnel and not to endanger our people’s property.  The security person who was seen using a rifle butt may have made a mistake. When I inquired, the concerned people told me that the suspect had bitten him (okuruma). That is very serious because some of the criminals have got infectious diseases. Our officer can be infected in that way and that should be an extra charge put on him. The appropriate response would have been to box him hard so that he stops biting our officer.  That would be self-defence which is very legitimate.  Hitting him with a rifle butt after he has stopped biting you, however, is both vengeance and also usurping the role of the punisher (the courts).

The involvement of the SFC, Military Police and CMI in handling law and order issues has been caused by the kawukumi (bean weevils) that had invaded the Police.  Otherwise, they should not have been involved and they were never involved. I commend them because the main aims of the government were achieved: to protect the lives of Ugandans and their property.

The image of the country was somewhat affected. That, however, will be repaired. What is crucial is the country to be stable and not just to appear stable. Nevertheless, for logical and legal reasons, the army and the other security forces can, if required, backup the Police in Law and Order Management.

The non-Police security personnel, if they are to be involved at all, will be sensitized about the rational procedure. All I am saying above is simple logic of how to deal with friendly and hostile crowds, hostile individuals threatening the lives of Ugandans, the lives of the security personnel, the property of Ugandans, legitimate public gatherings and the image of Uganda as tourism and investment destinations and also the image of Uganda as a safe place.

These measures are not only rational but most of them are already part of the SOPs (Standard Operational Procedures) of the Police, part of the Police Act and also part of the UN Conventions. If they were not part of the law, we would have long ago made them so.

Indeed, the UN Conventions provide that if the non-lethal methods of the Police are not effective, then the following actions should be taken as is indicated below:

UN guidelines on the use of force:

1.      Fire arms can be used only when it cannot be avoided.

2.      Fire arms may be used if other means are ineffective to achieve

the intended result.

3.      They can be used in self-defence or in defence of others against imminent threat of death or serious injury

4.      They can be used to prevent the commission of a serious crime involving grave threat to life.

5.      Can be used to arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting police authority.

6.      Can also be used to prevent such a person’s escape.

7.      Intentional use of fire arms or lethal force may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.

Section 28 of the Police Act says as follows: “A firearm can be used against a person resisting arrest or the arrest of another person”.



Yoweri K. Museveni


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