Village Crime Preventers (Uganda)

Country: Uganda
Details of Formation: The Village Crime Preventers are a volunteer force of civilians, recruited before the 2011 elections and managed by the police. They are intended to report on and prevent crime in cooperation with the police and communities. They are strongly affiliated with the ruling party NRM and gained particular importance in the months leading up to the 2016 elections (Amnesty International 2016, Human Rights Watch 2016).
Details of Termination: The group is not officially terminated and may be mobilised in further presidential election campaigns to ensure Museveni’s victory.
Purpose: The militia was intended to curb crime in local communities and ensure security during the election period. The regime used competing explanations for the group’s purpose to be able to constantly reframe them to suit a variety of ends. As the crime preventer program included unemployed adolescents, their interests could be redirected into a pro-government program, thereby limiting youth support for opposition candidates. The program may have impacted the election outcome by attracting young voters besides using violent means of intimidation (Tapscott 2016). As Museveni emerged as the winner of the 2016 elections, the crime preventers fulfilled their intended purpose.
Organisation: The Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kale Kayihura joined Museveni’s bush war in 1982 and remains a close ally to the president. Kayihura is said to have initiated the crime preventer program in its current form in 2014. The National Crime Preventer Forum (NCPF), an organization for university students to gain knowledge of police practices was combined with a large-scale local recruitment of civilians across the country. To manage the surge of crime preventers, the NCPF developed an institutional structure resembling the police, with coordinators at the village, parish, sub-county, district, and sub-regional levels (Tapscott 2016).
Weapons and Training: The Crime Preventers received a few months of training before the police provided them with uniforms and batons. The training was loosely modelled on police and military training and it included marching, military drill and culture, self-defence, patriotism, ideology and law enforcement. It was held in fields where community members could observe the youth being trained. Aside from a few sporadic reports crime preventers were generally not allowed to handle guns but instead carried wooden sticks (Tapscott 2016).
Size: The government attempted to recruit 30 crime preventers in each village, resulting in a force of nearly 1.5 million (Tapscott 2016). The recruitment rapidly increased in the months leading up to the official start of the presidential campaign period in November 2015 (Amnesty International 2016).
Reason for Membership: The Crime Preventer program made promises of employment, payment and material rewards in exchange for participation. Many hoped the militia could be a stepping stone to employment with the Ugandan police, military or prison services. Many were given clothing, transport funds and food. Additionally, members of the militia continued with their service because losing relationships in their community due to the duties of a militiaman constituted a cost that could not be recovered (Amnesty International 2016, Tapscott 2016).
Treatment of Civilians: The militia intimidated and violently attacked opposition members or those suspected of supporting the opposition, with no accountability (Amnesty International 2016). While they were intended to prevent and report crime, they were also portrayed as “crime promoters” who used their positions to extract resources for personal gain. The lack of a clear definition for crime preventers helped authorities to minimise their responsibility for them (Tapscott 2016).
Other Information: Information on payment of the group appears contradictory. While some sources claim that the Crime Preventers do not receive a formal government salary (BBC Monitoring Africa, Amnesty International 2016), another states that they received a one-time payment for their work (Tapscott 2016).
References: Amnesty International. 2016. “Uganda: Suspend ‘Crime Preventers’ ahead of elections.”

Human Rights Watch. 2016. “Uganda: Suspend ‘Crime Preventers’; Massive Unregulated Force Threatens Election Security.”

Tapscott, Rebecca. 2016. "Where the wild things are not: crime preventers and the 2016 Ugandan elections." Journal of Eastern African Studies 10 (4): 693-712.