The East African - - OPINION -

The peo­ple be­hind il­le­gal ar­rests in Uganda need a bet­ter ti­tle?

Our Ugan­dan an­ces­tors had a say­ing roughly cor­re­spond­ing to the English, “It’s a dirty job but some­body has to do it.” It was also said that the clos­est rel­a­tive of the de­ceased is the one who han­dles the stinki­est part of the corpse.

But times have changed. Now we have mod­ern pub­lic mor­tu­ar­ies and even if the corpse is dis­cov­ered after weeks of de­com­po­si­tion, spe­cialised personnel will han­dle and pack it prop­erly in the cof­fin, for a hefty fee of course.

And now we even have fu­neral homes that not only han­dle the corpse but also make the whole process more el­e­gant than a poor man’s wed­ding. And yes, they even have right of way on our traf­fic-jammed streets.

It is not only corpse han­dling that has gone mod­ern. The ar­rest of peo­ple whom the courts of law think shouldn’t be ar­rested is also be­ing re­as­signed to a new pro­fes­sion. They are not mor­tu­ary at­ten­dants but look as scary. They are pop­u­larly known as goons. Since the po­lice are a law en­force­ment agency, they can­not be ex­pected to con­duct an il­le­gal ar­rest, and they ac­tu­ally dis­so­ci­ate them­selves from these shady things. But il­le­gal ar­rests some­times have to be car­ried out in the in­ter­est of na­tional se­cu­rity, as de­fined by the state of the day. So some far-sighted young men and mid­dle-aged men ap­pear to have gone and stud­ied goon­ery at some se­cret univer­sity and they pro­vide their ser­vices when re­quired.

The pay must be good for these goons. To do what the po­lice and army are not will­ing to do can­not come cheap.

Now the prac­ti­tion­ers of goon­ery need to do one thing ur­gently, and that is to get a more re­spectable name for their pro­fes­sion. It is not good to have the pub­lic re­fer­ring to you as a goon when you are car­ry­ing out a highly spe­cialised job. To be a so-called goon you must have un­der­gone rig­or­ous phys­i­cal train­ing in un­armed com­bat and you must carry a gun, which how­ever you must avoid us­ing. Your typ­i­cal area of op­er­a­tion is court precincts, where ev­ery­body is ex­pected to con­duct them­selves with deco­rum. So to con­duct an il­le­gal ar­rest in such cir­cum­stances while at­tract­ing min­i­mal at­ten­tion as you dis­en­tan­gle your sus­pects from the tight em­brace of their wives and whisk them off in an un­marked cars zip­ping through pub­lic and of­fi­cial se­cu­rity ve­hi­cles is a spe­cialised art that should com­mand re­spect. Peo­ple must learn to re­spect spe­cial­ists and the last thing they should call you is “goon.” Names they could con­sider coin­ing in­clude “spe­cialised en­forcers” or “al­ter­na­tive po­lice” or “rapid ap­pre­hen­ders.” The thing is that if such ar­rests con­tinue be­ing ef­fected, you can­not af­ford to have them be­ing at­trib­uted to peo­ple called goons. This would mean that the law en­force­ment agen­cies will be ex­pected to hunt the goons down and charge them with kid­nap. And even more tricky, a court of law can­not han­dle peo­ple ar­rested by goons. Yet such peo­ple even­tu­ally sur­face in court and are han­dled us­ing laws. If a new ter­mi­nol­ogy can­not be coined for these mus­cu­lar en­forcers, then one of the estab­lished se­cu­rity agen­cies has to own them.

Il­lus­tra­tion: John Nyaga

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