The violence that started during the acrimonious Arua Municipality by-elections and spilled into this week has brought out a lot of things on the discipline and professionalism of the security forces in handling public protests by unarmed civilians.
The brutal behaviour of the armed forces in the Monday civilian protests and during the arrest of Opposition politicians in Arua last week, betrays the standard of the armed forces envisaged under Chapter 12 of the Constitution, which provides for a disciplined and professional army and police. They exhibited none and exuded the contrary.
Previously, the President and government blamed chaos on Opposition protesters and justified the use of excessive force as a means to subdue them and stop them from breaking into people’s shops or business premises to loot or destroy their property.
However, on Monday, it was the security forces, who were seen on video and in still images, brutalising innocent people and hounding traders out of their shops to beat them.
The shocking images show soldiers beating people with sticks as if they were serpents. This was after smoking them out of their shops with tear gas. This cannot be a behaviour or character of an army claimed to be a people’s defence force.
The security forces lobbed tear gas into shopping arcades and beat suffocating traders and clients who ran out for fresh air.
One wonders what the motive was when it was clear the traders in the arcades were not part of the protesters. Even suspects, who did not resist arrest, were battered to pulp. In one incident, a woman fled and left her baby behind. Calls for her to return and pick the baby were futile as she continued running. Journalists covering the riots were not spared either.
In Mityana, the armed forces shot at a van of soccer fans who were not part of the protesters, killed people and injured others.
This kind of brutality must be condemned in the strongest terms. The Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) issued a statement promising to arrest the soldiers who beat up journalists.
The decision is welcome, but journalist are just a section of the brutalised larger community. All soldiers who brutalised innocent people - whether journalists or others - must be punished.
We hope the CDF will walk the talk and arrest the culprits. The public is watching.
Credit: Daily Monitor