To Protect and serve

Sometime last week one of my cousins was driving in Kampala when another car hit hers. The driver of the other car was clearly at fault and when he tried to drive off, bystanders stopped him, dragged him out of the car and roughed him up in typical Ugandan mob-justice style. Traffic police intervened and both my cousin and the perpetrator were taken to the police station. This is where things swiftly began to deteriorate.

My cousin was detained at the police station for more than 3 hours, and made to write a statement, not about the accident, but about witnessing the man being beaten. Meanwhile, it became apparent that the gentleman in question had been allowed to leave freely after giving some excuse about going to get his eyes checked by a doctor (apparently a common excuse when bribes are paid). My cousin, who did not pay a bribe was intimidated and detained until her father, who has a high-ranking position in the government came and began asking questions. Then came the apologising and grovelling.

My cousin was rescued, but what if you are a young person without political connections and/or a fat wallet?

After this story was told, everyone had a tale of their own to contribute about Uganda police’s general f*$%ery. Like my aunt who was horrified at having to sit with common criminals before a magistrate after being caught without valid 3rd party insurance and failing to grease the appropriate palms. Or my uncle, whose car was stolen yet he could not get it back from the police for weeks because the man who had stolen the car was paying to stall the proceedings.

Everyone in Uganda (and many other African countries) has (one or ten) stories about unfairness/uselessnes/general f*$%ery/corruption of their local police force. If you have one send it to vugaafrica@gmail.com and I will publish it.

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