ALICE THELMA ACHAN: ‘Labeling Theory’ & NUP’s Targeting of Security Personnel


Sociology is perhaps the most respected discipline in the Social Sciences for its vast array of theories that explain human behavior.

One of such theories is the ‘Labeling Theory’ developed and popularized by American sociologist Howard S. Becker in his 1963 book Outsiders.

It states that: The behavior of human beings is influenced significantly by the way other members in society label them.

The theory has been used to explain a variety of social behaviour among groups, including deviant criminal behaviour. According to this theory, individuals who are labeled as criminals by society, for instance, may be more likely to engage in criminal activities simply due to such social labeling. By the same logic, positive labeling by society can influence individuals to exhibit positive behaviour.

There was fervent hope that former Ugandan presidential contender Bobi Wine would use his patriotic and Pan-African lyrics to persuade Hon Robert Kyagulanyi to steer his National Unity Platform (NUP) away from becoming a mob of feared Interahamwe to a truly national party, but evidence available proves this hope to have been hopeless.

Becker’s theory appears to have found validity in the latest evidence proving that Hon Kyagulanyi is waging a war against certain security personnel not only because of their ethnicity, but to simply exhibit what Becker aptly referred to as deviant behaviour.

This latest evidence is related to last week’s beating up of journalists who had accompanied the NUP chief to present his evidence to the UN Human Rights office. Salutes go to CDF Gen David Muhoozi for having taken swift action against the offending soldiers. But these soldiers must also be thanked for not having used firearms at the gathering. It would have been worse. Society has labeled the NUP as dominated by a mob who exhibits a deviant stance towards everything different from their thought process. In turn, the same mob, led by the supreme leader, has persistently labeled the law enforcement personnel as criminals, deliberately targeting key individuals for their ethnicity and malicious attack. If we are not careful, this nation will soon plummet into an avalanche of deviant criminal behaviour towards innocent ethnicities.

Although Hon Kyagulanyi missed being in last week’s fracas in Kololo, as he is always anxious to be, he managed to “see” that in command of the stick-wielding military police cops was Lt. Col Napoleon Namanya of the UPDF Military Police!! So powerful has Mr. Kyagulanyi become that he also managed to convince the once-upon-a-time highly respected leading media house to publish a story in which they also “saw” Col. Napoleon in action. Inevitably, many civil society organisations also ended up “seeing” Col. Napoleon in the fracas, and while it is understandable that DGF’s 500bn/- must be eaten by whatever means, the sectarian and genocidal messages that have accompanied the attacks on Col. Napoleon would force all surviving Interahamwe commanders to request further training in a field they had considered themselves unmatched.

Also guilty of having been born in the wrong places are CP Frank Mwesigwa, DPC Caesar Tusingwire, DPC Abraham Asiimwe, DPC Nahabwe and ASP Asiimwe, all top commanders in the Uganda Police Force whose only crime is doing their job of keeping law and order.

The theoretical framing message label being sent by Uganda’s emerging Interahamwe to these and other officers is that their being on duty to protect lives and property near where NUP people plan crime is a capital offence. It can be assumed that there are NUP members who are relatives of the maligned officers, who still hope that these sectarian attacks on their relatives are a passing frenzy. They had better pray hard.

The prayer is that NUP Secretary General Rubongoya and Barbie Kyagulanyi (also born wrongly) might persuade their mighty party leader, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu to rein in his passions that are leading a once-promising national party into becoming the dreaded Interahamwe.

The writer is a Sociologist and project consultant in Kampala

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