From 19-21 November, International Alert ran a vibrant campaign in the Ugandan capital of Kampala to engage thousands of local people in conversations about making their city a safer place.
A Safer City Campaign featured a truck playing music and driving around the city, regularly converting into a stage on which discussions were hosted by Alert, the Kampala City Traders Association, a slum youth ambassador group and the police.
Key topics discussed included the idea of a ‘neighbourhood watch’ (taking responsibility for your own community’s security), engaging with the police to report crime, and how to raise concerns regarding police conduct. The bus circulated around eight strategic locations, such as the busy St Balikuddembe market and the Kampala taxi park, with messages from the campaign also introduced through radio and TV shows broadcast in both Luganda – a Kampala lingua franca – and English.
Based on popular demand, face-to-face discussions between communities and the police were also held. This level of public interaction with the police is said to be unprecedented in the city, and Alert was praised for organising what many considered a unique event.
The campaign was part of International Alert’s Business for peace project in Kampala, which supports the business community in promoting sustainable conflict resolution. It was informed by a survey which revealed that numerous social, economic and political challenges were undermining safety in the city. These included high taxes, youth unemployment, high crime rates, land-related conflicts, mob justice, civil unrest and drug abuse.
An urgent need was therefore identified to establish a ‘safer city’, where businesses, local residents, city officials and security and law enforcement officers take responsibility and work together to reduce crime, violence and conflict, building a collaborative partnership to ensure peace and security.
During the official launch at the Kampala taxi park/Mini Bata Price corner on 19 November, attended by about 5,000 people, the chairman of the Kampala City Traders City Association, representing the local business community, said:
“We used to fear the police, but through this interaction, the fear is no more. Instead we now fear the law enforcement of Kampala Capital City Authority [KCCA]”.
There was, therefore, a call for the KCCA to also engage more with the business communities, to counter negative perceptions of the general public towards this authority.
In Bwaise, one of the suburbs of Kampala, the open dialogue between the business community and the police resulted in the setting up of a suggestions box at the market for the business community to report any complaints and security concerns to the district police commander.
The campaign concluded with a gala dinner on 21 November, with about 500 guests including the Hon. Minister of Trade and Industry – who launched the aforementioned survey.
The Business for peace project runs in partnership with the Centre for Economic Social and Cultural Rights in Africa (CESCRA), Kampala City Traders City Association (KACITA-Uganda), Action for Fundamental Change and Development (AFFCAD), Open Space Centre, the Police and Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), and is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
Photos (clockwise from top): Entertainment at the launch of the campaign; a lively crowd attending the launch; safety begins with observance of law and order – police officeres take to the stage on top of the campaign truck; Alert's Uganda Country Manager Richard Businge, addressing the crowd at the launch.