Crime & Investigation

Inside Story: Why Congo Soldiers Easily Killed Ugandan Cops

Uganda Police marines in a training session in 2013

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has one of the most underpaid, nurse corrupt and undisciplined soldiers in the world.

The impunity of DRC army has on several occasions seen soldiers cross into Rwanda and Uganda to loot food.

That the poorly equipped and ill—trained DRC soldiers could take out Uganda’s police marines on Lake Albert underscores the challenges facing the East African nation’s ability to maintain security on the Lakes.

The Inspector General of Police gen Kale Kayihura recently said the bodies of 3 Ugandan Policemen killed in line of duty on the 21/05/2016, this site within the territorial sphere of Uganda at Kitebere –Kibaale District were received on last Friday at Goli customs border point in Nebbi District and transferred to the City Mortuary, Mulago, where they underwent autopsies and thereafter, handed over to a funeral home for burial arrangements.

The IGP who met all the burial expenses, was represented by 3 Directors.

The Director Operations, AIGP Haruna Isabirye, attended the burial of No. 349558 Sgt Waiswa Frank in Bugiri District while the Director Criminal Investigations, AIGP Grace Akullo  graced the burial of No. 40122 PC Ochom Moses in Apac District.

The Deputy Director Oil and Gas, SCP Christopher Kasalawo attended the burial of No. 58012 PC Bernard Isingoma.

Police said the three fallen officers were accorded a dignified send off with full police honors respectively.

The Regional Police team from Rwenzori East, also received the other government stores that included; 4 AK-47 guns, 4 magazines, 53 rounds of ammunition, 3 sets of marine blue uniform, 1 khaki uniform, 3 sets of warm suits, 1 civilian jacket, 2 magazine porches, 4 police life jackets, one boat engine and 1 police marine boat under Reg. No. UP 086.

It will be recalled that at the marines’ pass-out in 2013, the Commandant Marine unit, Eng. Robert Lule said the officers had been introduced to modern maritime policing.

“The Officers were given skills in swimming and survival at sea, diving, maritime search and rescue operations, maritime combat, and un-armed self defence,” said Eng. Lule.

“The trainees acquired skills in navigations, diving, sharp, and quick shooting (the amphibian fighting), maritime search and rescue, long distance swimming and marshal art,” he added.

If the Ugandan police marines are well-trained, how come they never inflicted injury to the hostile DRC forces?

Was it an ambush?  ChimpReports understands the answer lies in the logistical challenges facing the Police marines in execution of their duties.


Despite acquiring such sophisticated skills, the police marine unit cannot effectively ensure maritime security and safety on Uganda water bodies.

The Unit is expected to collaborate and liaise with other maritime stakeholders locally and internationally, enforce government regulations on immigration, fishing and smuggling on Uganda waters; monitor and coordinate search and rescue operations on water and; ensure patrols on water to prevent trespassers and pirates.

Yet, according to an investigation by the Auditor General, John Muwanga, the specialised unit lacks simple salvage and Navigation equipment, an Automatic Identification System (AIS), and Diving equipment hence hindering the force’s work.

“The Unit lacks tool boxes on boats with salvage equipment like airbags and compressors for use in case the boat develops issues on waters. There are no navigation systems on the lake like the GPS and radar systems, and night vision goggles to help the boat crew in case of bad weather and radar failure,” Muwanga observed in his report for the year ending 2015.

“The Unit also lacks an Automatic Identification System (AIS) to monitor the boat movements on waters from the office, and in case the boat gets a problem in the middle of the lake and there is no network, the unit headquarters cannot ably know and locate where the problem has occurred from.”

Further, the diving services are not adequate for all the marine sites. The only ten pairs of diving equipment available are centralized at Kigo marines’ headquarters and Jinja.

The other unit detaches do not have diving equipments and yet are far from the unit headquarters which hinders timely rescue operations.

According to police management, at least seven more diving equipments are required for other unit detaches.

Muwanga observed that in the absence of these equipment and system, the unit cannot effectively patrol the waters and ensure maritime security and safety.

Management explained that the available funding cannot enable Police acquire all the relevant equipment.

However, said police, efforts are in place to acquire more equipment as the budget improves.

Inadequate fuel

The unit detaches are provided with 200 liters of fuel for operations per month (6.4liters per day) and yet the fiber boats at each unit consume 20 liters per hour.

According to the in-charge, each unit detach requires at least 60 liters a day which puts the fuel requirement per month to 1,800 liters for the units to effectively monitor the waters.

Muwanga cautioned that lack of enough fuel affects the efficient monitoring and patrolling of the waters which puts the maritime security and safety at stake.

Police officials argue that due to the inadequate budget, the fuel allocations are insufficient.

However, in financial year 2015/16 the fuel budget was revised slightly upwards and the fuel allocation to the Marine unit was also increased.

No marina

Police has over 40 vessels including long distance patrol boats, fire fighting boats, fiber glass boats and inflatable boats deployed in the detach units on all major water bodies of Lakes Victoria, Kyoga, Albert, Edward and George.

However, the Force lacks a marina at Kigo marine headquarters for safe docking and parking of major boats.

As a result, some big boats are docked/parked at Lake Victoria Serena Hotel for safety purposes, while others are dry docked (parked on land) at Kigo headquarters.

The marines also lack a maintenance yard from where repairs and maintenance would be carried out.

A consultant was hired in January 2014 and came up with the architectural designs but to date, the contractor for the construction of the marina has not been procured.

It was observed that in the circumstances, the marine vessels are not properly maintained and are subject to vandalism.

Police explained that funds to kick start the construction of a marina have been set aside but works have not begun pending formalization of land ownership issues with Buganda Land Board.

Inadequate vessels

A discussion with the deputy in charge marines revealed that the boats are still few.

The unit lacks enough speed boats (interceptors) for proper and timely monitoring, enforcing government regulations, search and rescue operations, and ensuring patrols on water to prevent trespassers and pirates.

For example, at Migingo Islands which is a sensitive island, Uganda Police has a fiber glass boat compared to their Kenyan counter parts that have a speed boat. Muwanga observed that this hinders the marines to effectively ensure maritime security and safety on the waters.

The Police leadership noted the need to have more boats but was hindered by a limited budget.

They further explained that recently the Force received a donation of 2 fire boats from the Government of China and has planned to acquire four more speed boats in the financial year 2015/2016 which will reinforce the Marine activities.

Lack of adequate equipment

The Auditor General discovered that the unit lacks boat carriers/trailers for removing the boats from water.

It was noted that some boats had remained in water for two and a half years since they were lowered to the lake yet best practice requires boats to be removed from water every after a year for checking and thorough cleaning.

Lack of boat cleaning and thorough checking might impair their performance and lifetime, thereby putting the lives of the operators and users at risk, said Muwanga.

He said there was need to secure boat carriers/trailers to safeguard the lives of users and prolong the lifespan of the boats.

Human resource under-staffing

Marines unit has a workforce of 197 staff with over 40 vessels.

A review of the unit nominal roll revealed that only 10 staff have mechanical/technical related qualifications while 6 have qualifications in fisheries.

Diving Section

The section has only 3 trained navigators. An interaction with the navigation team revealed that 15 navigators would be ideal to navigate the available boats.

The current 3 navigators are overworked which poses a risk of accident due to fatigue while navigating the boats.

A workforce of 15 navigators would allow working in shifts and avoid fatigue while navigating.

Management responded that police is still under the recommended International Police: Population ratio of 1:500.

However, Muwanga argued that with the recent recruitment and pass out of Cadets and PPCs, 45 personnel were seconded to the Marine unit and have since been inducted and deployed to boost the staffing levels.

Lack of accreditation

The current three trained navigators are not accredited and certified internationally.

This is a requirement of the insurance companies without which, one cannot be compensated in case of any eventuality like accidents.

To qualify for accreditation however, there is need for skills development through advanced training in marines which applies to divers too.

The recent scenario of pirates throwing a gun in the water is case in point. The gun could not be recovered because of deep waters, lack of trained capacity of divers and adequate diving equipment.

Muwanga said without a trained Force, the unit cannot be effective to achieve its mandate using the available resources.

Engineering Section

The engineering section has 15 staff; some with general mechanical and elementary marine engineering skills, while 5 are specialists in boat building and not engine building.

An interview with the in-charge engineering revealed need for advanced marine training to acquire specialized skills in marine boat engine building.

Without adequate skills, boat engine maintenance remains a challenge to the unit and impacts on the operations of the boats and the marine unit.

Management in their response explained that a new Directorate of Human Resource Development has been created and tasked with drawing up a master plan for skills development in the entire workforce, Marines inclusive.

The Accounting Officer further explained that some training is already underway both within and outside the country, and that in the current financial year, 45 staff are undergoing marine training by Korean instructors.


The marines unit has two accommodation blocks with a capacity of 16 officers. This, it was discovered, is insufficient as other officers use “self-help” system as accommodation.

Lack of adequate accommodation demotivates staff from efficiently currying out their duties.

Management explained that the Force has an accommodation challenge due to inadequate funding but alternative plans under PPP were developed. With the passing of the PPP law the problem is planned to be addressed through partnering with private entities.

Condition of the boats

Most of the boats are in a good running condition except for the 7 (seven) Interceptor Speed boats which need repairs. The interceptors are useful boats to the marines unit with inbuilt twin engines that provide enough speed for adequate patrols and interception of wrong elements like pirates on the waters. However, the boats are currently dry docked awaiting repairs.

According to the engineer in charge, the engines are in good running conditions but there is a risk of further deterioration of the boats if repairs are not carried out in time and boats lowered into water for operations.

Besides, there is a general delay in the procurement of maintenance parts for the speed boats because the spare parts are not on the open market which affects the timely repairs on the boats and impacts on securing maritime security and safety.

Police explained that the contract to maintain and refurbish the Marine boats was awarded and the speed boats will soon be repaired.

However, funds available in the budget may not be adequate to have all the boats repaired but phased as the funds become available in the budget.

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