BY Proscovia Achom
At least 21 people including six senior police officers have so far been charged and remanded to Kitalya Prison over the demolition of a church in Ndeeba, Kampala.
The officers include SSP Rashid Agero, 59, the Field Force Unit (FFU) commander Kampala Metropolitan area, SP Martin Odero, the FFU Kampala Metropolitan South zonal commander, SP David Epedu, 34, Katwe Police Divisional commander and ASP Isabirye Kaloli, 33, attached to FFU, Katwe.
Others are ASP Mugira Yeko Kato, the OC Station Ndeeba Police Station, AIP Anthony Kiro and CPL Richard Kasule.
The policemen were remanded alongside Kampala Capital City Authority director physical planning, Ivan Katongole, Ali Lubega, Badiru Ssekitto, Hamza Kiberu, Abas Mutebi, Ali Kalika, Simon Matovu, James Kisirinya, Bashir Muruti, Andrew Mujuzi, Munir Bbosa, Muhammad Kawooya and Dodviko Mwajne, who is claimed to be the owner of the land.
However, of all, the most notorious officer is SSP Agero who is known for brutalizing opposition politicians, especially during political campaigns.
In November 2019, news outlets were awash with stories about SSP Agero after he used a gun to smash and vandalize political activist Dr Kizza Besigye’s car at Spear Motors.
Early this year, Agero was again in the news for commanding the operation where Police Water Canon launched powerful water jet against Besigye in Kireka and almost killed him.
During Besigye’s house arrest after the declaration of 2016 election results, commanded officers who pitched camp at Besigye’s home in Kasangati, Wakiso District for months.
However, SSP Agero has a history of violence against political leaders and other protests.
Many social media commentators described the actions of SSP Agero, the commander of Field Force Unit in Kampala Metropolitan Police, as brutal.
In 2019, he was seen on video recording smashing Dr Besigye’s car windscreen before he signaled his juniors to pull down the crashed windscreen, spray pepper onto Dr Besigye who was later subdued and arrested and taken to Nagalama Police Station until late in the night when he was released.
SSP Agero replaced Senior Superintendent of Police Sam Omala who also had earned a reputation of being an Opposition tormentor in 2015.
He is not new to such incidents of police brutality.
During the build-up to 2006 General Election, Mr Agero, then an Assistant Inspector of Police and the officer-in-charge of operations at Kampala Central Police Station, doused John Ssebaana Kizito (now deceased), the then Democratic Party leader and other party members with coloured water and tear gas using water cannons mounted on armoured anti-riot trucks.
He squared off with late Ssebaana, who was protesting on Kampala Road, and aimed a pistol at him. The image made rounds in media and the act was condemned by all political activists regardless of their parties.
The DP members were walking to Christ the King Church to meet leaders of other parties to discuss the proposal to field one presidential candidate in the election.
Mr Agero later remained in Kampala extra region (now part of Kampala Metropolitan police) and led the eviction of traders in Shauriyako Market before it was reconstructed.
In July 2007, Daily Monitor reported that Goddy Muhumuza, who was then Makerere University legal adviser, accused police officers, including Rashid Agero, of kidnapping him and taking him to Butabika hospital on pretence that he had a mental problem. Muhumuza later said the officers had connived with his relatives to stop him from testifying in a court in western Uganda where he had filed an assault case.
Mr Agero later kept a low profile as he was moved to areas that police anticipated riots around the country.
In 2011, after promotion to Assistant Superintendent of Police, Agero was appointed Lyantonde District Police Commander.
In May 2012, he was again in the news when he had a fist-fight with Lyantonde District chairperson Fred Muhangi at the district main police station.
Muhangi had gone to the police station to complain about the detention of his supporter, Mr Paul Luzula, beyond 48 hours. Mr Muhangi engaged Mr Agero with a verbal exchange, which later turned into a fistfight. Mr Muhangi fled but Mr Agero opened a case of assault against him. He was later promoted to the rank of Superintendent of Police.
On April 17, 2015, he was appointed Commander of the Field Force Unit (FFU) in Kampala Metropolitan Region replacing Omala, who was then Senior Superintendent of Police. Omala had also earned notoriety for blocking Opposition protests.
In February 2016, Agero was promoted to Senior Superintendent of Police.
On December 26, 2018, he led a team of police officers who violently dispersed Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, and his fans who were following him to attend his music concert at his One Love Beach in Busabala.
Bobi Wine was arrested and taken to his home in Magere, Kasangati and put under house confinement.
In July, as 300 FFU officers were being passed out at Mandela National Stadium, Mr Agero said they had acquired techniques they didn’t have before, which he said they [passed officers] would apply on protesters in Kampala Metropolitan area.
On July 17, Mr Agero violently dispersed Pastor Joseph Kabuleta’s supporters who had gone to seek his release at the police Special Investigations Division in Kireka, a Kampala suburb.