The People And Their Police

Police in Uganda are facing a narrowing space in local communities with relationships between civilian and officer deteriorating. The Ugandan Police Force is attempting to rehabilitate its image. Yet many feel that unless police actively prosecute their own for wrongdoing, the community outreach means very little.  This short photo essay focuses on the often tenuous relationship between the people, their spaces and their police force.

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Smoke rises behind a police officer at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Sent into quash protests, police often engage in running battles with students – ending in tear gas and destruction of property.

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Police officers often make their presence known without actively engaging angry citizens. This method can and does keep violence at bay. However, some citizens say that it also doubles as intimidation against their right to assemble.

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During the 2016 Presidential Elections both Military Police and local police units conducted heavy patrols throughout Kampala. In some communities there is still considerable anger over what they saw as encroachment on their right to vote. Although this anger is rarely seen in the open, it can manifest in surprising ways. In one instance, a group of boda riders left a man who had been stuck by a vehicle on the road to die after finding out he was a local police officer. Such divisions are often ignored by local leadership.

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Supporters of political opposition leader Kizza Besigye assemble across the street after being denied entrance into his court proceedings. Situations where crowds amass in an “us vs. them” mentality can increase the likelihood of violence between citizen and police officers. Later that day, a number of supporters were arrested after staging an impromptu march down the road.

Amama Mbabazi Arrested in Ugandan Presidential Bid

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On Thursday, presidential aspirant Amama Mbabazi was arrested in Jinja town and brought to Kira Road Police Station in Kampala. Supporters and journalists flocked to the police station and in the high tension atmosphere, physical altercations between the police and Mbabazi supporters broke out. These are my photographs from that day.

Police enforce a strict barrier between journalists, the public and the police station while presidential hopeful Amama Mbabazi is inside.

Police enforce a strict barrier between journalists, the public and the police station while presidential hopeful Amama Mbabazi is inside.

The strategy was 'containment'.

The strategy was ‘containment’.

Two Mbabazi supporters look on in horror as police and civilians begin to clash.

Two Mbabazi supporters look on in horror as police and civilians begin to clash.

Police and Mbabazi supporters stumble into traffic while in the midst of a physical fight.

Police and Mbabazi supporters stumble into traffic while in the midst of a physical fight.

An Mabazi supporter distributes posters along Kira Road. Second later he had to run from the police or face arrest.

An Mabazi supporter distributes posters along Kira Road. Seconds later he had to run from the police or face arrest.

As the police pull up just out of view, supporters make their case to passing traffic.

As the police pull up just out of view, supporters make their case to passing traffic.