Overhauling East African police forces image

I love the advertisement that says: “Image is everything,” that advertises Guinness the alcoholic beverage. Of course there is always an element of exaggeration in adverts, and this one is no exception.

I love the advertisement that says: “Image is everything,” that advertises Guinness the alcoholic beverage. Of course there is always an element of exaggeration in adverts, and this one is no exception.

In fact, I know this one particularly smacks of some hypocrisy somewhere, in the thinking that projecting a good clean image should be promoted at all costs, even at the expense of the truth.

But I would like to totally agree with this advert, put against the Rwanda National Police, and especially the traffic police. Praise for this branch of traffic safety and enforcement has been given time and again, and it should not be under-rated.

In this terrain of hills and mountains, with every road having innumerable “S” bends – in some cases sharper than even the ordinary “S” if you can imagine such a thing – one cannot help but be grateful for the vigilance of the traffic police, because it is a fact that motorists tend to forget themselves and others’ safety, and speed beyond the acceptable limits.

Let us not even talk about the narrowness of the roads… the human and metal carnage would be horrible to contemplate. This week’s National Road Safety sensitisation programme is very good, for it shows that the traffic police is not just interested in ticketing road offenders (apropos, thanking the Rwanda Revenue Authority in collaboration with police for reducing the crippling traffic fines!) but would like to do so when they have given every opportunity to road abusers by way of aggressive sensitisation.

It is always refreshing to see the usually taciturn police officers flagging down vehicles to specifically have a tête-à-tête with drivers and passengers alike. In fact this year is no exception, because this is an annual event in the traffic police’s calendar. Thus do we see positive programmes having a great impact on the greater good of the general populace. 

The other week it was a different kind of sensitisation – the acting Commissioner General of Police, Mary Gahonzire, talking to police about working amicably with the media to build Rwanda. It is a visitor to Rwanda who would not know about the media’s running battles with the police.

In fact the relationship between the two had so degenerated that the media was seriously considering slapping a media freeze against the police!

Every imaginable roadblock was thrown in the journalists’ way in their official pursuit of getting and filing a story. They were whipped by policemen, denied access to information, harassed in every way to discourage them from doing their jobs well.

In the end it is very gratifying to see a major shift in behaviour, all owing without even presuming, to such sensitisation campaigns.

Rwanda’s traffic police conduct is way up there. This is refreshing in an East African region which is known for having cops who even win Most Corrupt appellations, and are lambasted by own Heads of State for being corrupt.

Their performance is shambolic at best, and without pretending to get offended, they should take a leaf out of Rwanda and Tanzania, whose traffic police departments are the most exemplary in the East African Community. Image is everything.

Kenya police needs to shed its military fatigues for a more reassuring and less bloody uniform.

Uganda policemen are very smart, but “smart” goes also for their love for kitu kidogo – not my words. Will this ever be routed? Then travel to Burundi. This blue khaki – and did I say shambolic traffic police performance?

No offence all ye fellas armed-to-the-teeth-like-American-soldiers-going-to-war. One of the purposes of establishing the East African Community is so that we can learn from one another the good practises that will advance our region, and discard the not-so-good.

It is also to be noted that a country like Tanzania is not so eager to support some of the East African Community programmes like the land policy, political federation, and others like migration and citizenship.

It has simply pointed out some of the bad practises of some of its sister community States, and will have none of such “disastrous” undertakings as part of what they have to take up for accepting to be part of the bloc.

This is brought as a contrast, and that there is more to be gained all-round from good practises. If Kenya frowns upon public smoking and makes it hot for such people, let not Uganda look on nonchalantly as Kenyans cross the border to satisfy their unholy craving with impunity.

If Rwanda lays down the law on speeding vehicles, let not Jaguar, Gaso and other buses operating within the region abide by this only when in Rwanda, and step on the gas all the way to the floorboard when they have crossed the border. Merry Christmas.

Contact: gusdaudi@yahoo.co.uk

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