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{UAH} Uganda’s police chief today, I doubt I would want to retain the job.

Were I Uganda's police chief today, I doubt I would want to retain the job.

But then I have never been a police officer, and there is no chance of my becoming one, as I don't have the right credentials. And so I don't know what being a police officer feels like. All I know is what it feels like to be an ordinary citizen going around thinking that there is something not quite right with the police, a government organ that citizens ought to trust.

Last week, I wrote about the criminals who have become so brazen they even notify their would-be victims of when they are planning to turn up to take their stuff and leave them with a few broken bones or worse, and others who grab people's cars and disappear with them or conduct smash and grab operations, leaving their victims facing large repair bills.

Under normal circumstances Uganda is a country of a thousand and one rumours. Even when the tales they tell are so outlandish that a small child can see through them, purveyors of rumours are capable of maintaining a straight face. It is not as if they are always seeking deliberately to tell falsehoods. The stories are usually picked up from "somewhere," believed, narrated to whoever cares to listen, and then recycled endlessly.

Things become much more interesting during times of anxiety such as currently when Kampala's rumour mill is in overdrive, when those with fertile imaginations put them to good use. As one would expect, theories have emerged regarding the identity of the criminals terrorising Kampala's residents, and what could be motivating them. Two of them stand out, both nakedly political:

One has it that the criminals are "hired guns" for politicians who would like to base their next campaign for office on a security platform. Apparently, they will then tell the public where the criminality originates, and how only they can stop it, the other side of the story being that if they are not elected, things will only get worse.

The intention, purveyors of this theory assert, is to give members of the public stark choices: "it is either us, or chaos." It is not clear what the source of this rumour is, but it does make one think of how far Ugandans have travelled down the road of mistrust of the country's political class since the late 1980s, when many believed that the new breed of politicians was fundamentally different from its predecessors of days gone by.

The second theory is possibly part wishful thinking, part a sign of growing concern about the future, specifically the transition to a new leadership. There are not many things Ugandans agree about these days. When it comes to politics, agreement is even less likely.

The theory has it that Uganda is probably in the throes of a slow-developing, low-intensity insurgency by disgruntled elements who are keen to present themselves as agents of the change that transition-obsessed Ugandans are yearning for.

Opponents of the government present the theory as "evidence" that "people have lost hope in the possibility of peaceful change", and that "they are now desperate and willing to take matters into their own hands. " Supporters of the government on the other hand, have no time for such talk, dismissing it as the "delusions" of opposition elements "that have nothing to offer".

Both theories are probably so much nonsense. Even then, they are the kind of talk that ought to attract the attention of and preoccupy the security establishment.

There are two reasons for that. The first theory, valid or not, contains serious insinuations about them, suggesting that those who peddle it are literally pointing fingers at them as possible participants in the conspiracy.

Recent claims on live television by self-confessed criminals that they work with rotten apples in the police underline the imperative for those whose job it is to keep all of us safe, to not be complacent.

Valid or not, the second theory calls for even more vigilance, for were there to be an insurgency, things would get worse before they got better. How fast they would get better would probably depend on whether those dismissing the theory as evidence of "delusions" among opposition circles were willing to think again, and how quickly.

One would imagine that none of this helps a police chief whose force stands accused of lawbreaking, to relax, let alone enjoy his job. As accusations go, the Uganda police force has quite a list against its name, from framing suspects, to torturing them, to aiding criminals, to failing to live up to its duty of protecting citizens and their property.

Which is why I began by saying that had I been the chief, I doubt I would have wanted to keep the job. All indications are, however, that Uganda's police chief is neither a quitter nor a coward.

By the look of things, while a number of Ugandans grumble loudly about the recent renewal of his contract, he is firmly focused on the challenges ahead. By the end of his new three -year contract, we shall know whether his decision not to cut and run was right.

Frederick Golooba-Mutebi is a Kampala- and Kigali-based researcher and writer on politics and public affairs. E-mail:

Allaah gives the best to those who leave the choice to Him."And if Allah touches you with harm, none can remove it but He, and if He touches you with good, then He is Able to do all things." (6:17)

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