Uganda is a third world country and that is not changing soon. That statement comes with strong reasons ranging from poverty to corruption, and very many other elements that keep a country down.
I am quite sure that if you have never been a victim of police harassment, you have a friend who has borne it to the bone. Every situation is an experience, a lesson that is probably meant to mould us into better people, but some just bring out the worst or beasts in us. I will now tell you about my unexpected encounter with the police:
Earlier this year I purchased a mobile phone from a friend whom I had known for a period long enough for him to have my trust. It was a quick deal – really cheap and sweet as they come. It was all great until a series of events led to the most unforgettable experience of my life.
It all started with a strange voice of a woman calling me and asking me if I knew any rentals around my neighbourhood. I bluntly replied “wrong number nnyabo” and she hang up. I brushed it off and went on to enjoy my phone.
The next anonymous call came a week later and it was from a guy with a heavy Kikiga accent. He claimed he worked for a company whose name I didn’t get clearly because of the accent. He said he had a package to deliver to me sent via their company. As I was still wondering what this was about he quickly apologized for having to deliver my valentines package late.
At this point he had me because in my long distance relationship my boyfriend had gone absolutely silent throughout the Valentine’s week. “He must have been preparing a surprise for me,” I thought to myself. Thereon I was really interested. I asked who the sender was but the guy said my package had no sender’s name, only my contact number and name. He asked me to give him directions to where I was in town and he would duly deliver.
Two hours later I am at a police cell in Kampala making a statement, giving a detailed explanation on the phone I bought earlier, how long I had had it, where I got it from. I couldn’t stop resenting myself for having been such a nerd to still expect Valentines’ gifts three days after the big day. You should have seen the look on my face.
“Madam you are being held on charges of phone theft. We have been tracking you since you started using this phone,” a police officer interrupted my thoughts.
Sitting with two police officers and the complainant who claimed to be the owner of the phone, I made a statement on how I came to own the phone. It was all documented before me. After several arguments, it was agreed that I give up the phone, compensate the complainant for his expenses, and then help them find the person who sold me the phone.
“If not you are going to sleep in a police cell until you are charged in court,” one of the police officers told me.
With my stolen phone, I was allowed to make phone calls and tell my people what had happened, and what was about to happen to me.
I was locked up until the chain of who brought, who transferred, who sold the phone, to whom and then to me, was complete. That was just within a day but it felt like a lifetime. I couldn’t believe my life had changed just like that, unexpectedly, like death. My life wasn’t going to be the same again, I thought. I had been broken, blown. I was losing my phone, and here I was in the cell. It was all too much to take in.
When the door was later opened and I got out sneezing and crying, my nose running, and with no hankie to wipe away anything, I thought I was going home because they had gotten the real culprit. To my total dismay, a whole new chapter had just begun.
The lady who had picked me up, not on cuffs though, had been upset with me simply because I had asked her to identify herself with proof and explain to me where we were going. She perceived this as arrogance. So Mrs. Policewoman and colleagues had prepared another surprise for me.
The complainant, together with the OC CID, a fine looking but very bitter Munyankole-looking woman, and the other bored and idle lot turned their whole attention to a teary me and started asking me questions of their interest. They turned into real bullies. One of the women made a very indiscent remark: “So you steal phones to do your hair and nails or what?” The rest giggled.
Their arrogance and rage seemed personal, as if they had known me before. They asked for money for having written my statement, money for letting me go free, or I was not going to be allowed to leave.
One of them asked me to make a phone call to my family members so they could come, pay, and then take me home. When I questioned them why I still had to pay yet they had got the person who sold me the phone they insisted that I was the suspect with whom they had found the phone. I was frustrated.
I told them I didn’t have money then, but could pay them next day when I return to pick my withheld simcards.
The next day I went there and I was told to cough UGX 200,000. The Officer kept emphasizing that I would be rearrested if I didn’t raise the money. I had to make a few calls to raise at least half the money and promised to pay the balance on March 3, 2019.
I started to wonder whether the conditions, the unfurnished offices, broken ceilings, unipots, were the factors behind the inhuman behaviour of some police officers. They can manipulate you until they get every penny out of you.
Sadly enough, I am not the last to be caught up in such a fix.
Interestingly, when March 3 arrived, the complainant sent me a threatening message, that they would track me again if I didn’t take the money to the police post,but I was now wiser and hardened. They can go ask Satan to give them the balance. Thieves!