Ugandan president unveils measures to curb crime wave, criticizes police

KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni accused some members of the security forces of conniving with criminals on Wednesday as he announced measures including the collection of DNA from all Ugandans to help curb surging crime.

FILE PHOTO: Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni attends the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and the Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia January 28, 2018. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

A flurry of unsolved murders and kidnappings for ransom has eroded Ugandans’ trust in law enforcement bodies. The failure of police to issue an annual crime report since 2013 has fueled suspicions they are trying to conceal the scale of the problem.

“Negligence and even collusion with the criminals by some elements in the security forces has been part of the problem,” Museveni said during a special address to parliament on the state of national security.

Museveni, in power since 1986, also said the police needed to show greater vigilance.

“If you analyze recent murders there are always clues that sometimes are not followed,” he said.

Museveni said his government would organize the collection of DNA samples from the whole population to facilitate the identification of suspects. It would also require motorvehicles and motorcycles to buy electronic license plates.

“This will enable us to know which vehicles or motorcyles were in which area if a crime is committed in different areas,” he said, adding that the police would also be provided with drones to help track down criminals.

Among recent crimes, unidentified men riding on motorcycles shot and killed a ruling party lawmaker with his bodyguard on June 8 near his home in a suburb of the capital Kampala.

The assassination followed last year’s killings of a senior police officer and at least 20 women whose bodies were dumped on road sides in Kampala. Several Muslim leaders have also been assassinated in recent years in different parts of the country.

Last week an army general, Kale Kayihura, who was sacked as head of the police in March this year, was arrested and the state media said his detention was in connection with the murder of a police official last year. He is yet to be charged.

Museveni, 73, is widely expected to stand for re-election in 2021 after parliament, controlled by his ruling party, scrapped an age cap in Uganda’s constitution last year.

Rights activists and government critics often accuse the police of concentrating on fighting Museveni’s political opponents instead of on fighting crime.

Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Omar Mohammed and Gareth Jones