Police across East Africa blame social media for civil unrest

Police in the East African region have blamed social media for the increased social and civil unrests in the region.

Speaking in Kampala during the 14th East African Police Chief’s Cooperation Organisation’s (EAPCO’s) annual general meeting, Uganda’s Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, said social media posts should be monitored to reduce crime.

The Observer reports that the police in Uganda are now mobilising and training a force to watch over social media posts.

Recently, Kenyans on Twitter united in an offline demonstration in Nairobi against the countries legislators who had moved a motion in parliament to award themselves hefty salary bonuses amounting to KSh2 billion. In Egypt and Tunisia, social media was prominent during the Arab Uprising.

Kayihura said: “Social media is a good thing but can also be a bad thing because it is so quick in terms of dissemination of information. If it is good information that is nice, but if it’s dangerous information like genocide information.

“Social media is a tool that we as police forces must get interested in to make sure that it is not misused for crime, worse still for terrorism.”

Pointing on how social media has been used across the continent to mobilise riots and violence, Kayihura said there was need for police to act first.

He said: “These riots on our streets, which they are calling Arab Spring [are] a new phenomenon where some forces think when they fail to win through the ballot, they cause chaos then NATO will come to bomb them into power.”

Kayihura further noted that rioters employ military tactics while facing off with police officers who are still stuck in the old conventional ways of keeping law and order.

The EAPCO brings Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Seychelles, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti together against crime and promotes investments and cross border cooperation by fighting cross-border crime.

Head of the Regional Interpol Bureau for Eastern Africa, Francis Xavier Rwego, commented that criminals are highly collaborative and are becoming more sophisticated as globalisation has made it so easy for them to communicate.

“We need to be above their thinking and collaborate more so that we can manage crime in this region,” he said.

Kayihura added that the police have to be innovative to tackle crime.

“Police operations are no longer the way they were. So, we must think outside the box and come up with strategies that will effectively ensure that we are not overwhelmed,” he said.

According to the East Africa Internet Forum, the increasing use of Internet and its growing impact on social, cultural, political and economic aspects of society affects the continents development.

The Internet is becoming mainstream in thousands of lives across Africa whose Internet penetration is estimated at nearly 140 million.

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