By Fosca Tumushabe
About nine out of ten people I have met feel intimidated by police officers, and about seven out of ten men I have talked to are intimidated by policewomen, even traffic officers. This is not because they are always on the wrong side of the law, but because of the fact that the police seem to have certain powers that they wield. I was, therefore, curious to know what it is like to be married to a police officer, from any department.
Paul Asaasira (not real names), who is married to a traffic officer, shared his story with me. Asaasira is a young man of only 29 and is married to Sarah Ninsiima (not real names), just one year younger than him. The two met at high school in 2003. After senior six, Asaasira went to the Islamic University in Uganda where he pursued a bachelor’s in business administration.
However, due to some twist of misfortune, Ninsiima could not pursue her studies further. According to Asaasira, during Ninsiima’s vacations, her stepmother accidentally stumbled upon photographs of Asaasira and Ninsiima at the beach. For many parents this is quite disheartening.
When the photographs were shown to Ninsiima’s father he threw up a feat and told her in no uncertain terms that she would not have any school fees for her higher education.
“You seem to be passing your time at the beach with a lot of men instead of focusing on your studies. I will not spend another penny on your academics,” Ninsiima’s father told her. There wasn’t much Ninsiima could do. She tried to get odd jobs to sustain herself, but it was all in vain.
With Asaasira being at university and all, he couldn’t help much either. They, however, kept in close touch and supported each other in every way they could. Then Ninsiima got advice from her cousin to try joining the police. As recruitment was already underway, Ninsiima applied in 2006, took the interviews and was accepted. However, before she could head off for training, she sought counsel from her boyfriend.
“Paul, there is something I have to tell you, but first, you must promise me you will not be upset with me,” Ninsiima said as she introduced the subject to her boyfriend over the phone. After he had made the promise, she broke the news of her acceptance into the police training school.
PRESSURES FROM THE FORCE:
“I remember being so terrified. I could tell from her voice that she was equally terrified,” Asaasira recalls. He says he was not upset with Ninsiima, and that there was nothing to be upset about. “I looked at this opportunity as the only way she was going to become a professional. Since her parents were not supporting her for higher education, and I was not in a position to help either, I was glad she was taking this bold step,” Asaasira adds.
Ninsiima, on the other hand, was afraid that Asaasira would start seeing other girls from the university. She expressed this concern and Asaasira made her a promise not to ever do that. Their communication was not so smooth while she was at the training school. Asaasira faced financial constraints, but Ninsiima did her best to continue keeping in touch.
Ninsiima’s training programme ended faster than they had expected and she was immediately deployed and started working. She was able to support herself and help Asaasira whenever and wherever she could. They visited each other often and were very happy together. However, this situation turned out to be a thin veneer that actually covered one that was not all rosy.
“Ninsiima had friends in the force. These friends kept on advising her to give me up because, they pointed out to her, that we had different academic levels. This was a very trying time for both of us. Her friends advised her to get somebody in the force instead,” Asaasira narrates.
This was not the only hurdle in their relationship. Like other professions and workplaces, Ninsiima’s superiors in the force were very demanding. As a young female officer, she was pressured by her bosses, who like her friends, seemed to be against her relationship with Asaasira.
“As a traffic officer, Ninsiima had to work at odd hours and this was hard on me. We didn’t live together; so, I missed her very much. It sometimes took us weeks before we met,” Asaasira goes on to add. Eventually, they worked out a way of overcoming the hurdles. To start with, Asaasira stood his ground and showed Ninsiima that he was going nowhere, no matter what.
In 2012, Asaasira was officially introduced to Ninsiima’s family and this strengthened their relationship even more. After the introduction ceremony, the two lived in the same house. But whenever they had a fight, Ninsiima wouldn’t go back to their house, in order to avoid escalating the problems.
She would instead go to the house she lived in before moving in with Asaasira, which she maintained. This helped them solve the problems that came with Ninsiima’s work much faster and made their relationship stronger. However, some problems just couldn’t go away.
“Ninsiima sometimes came home with over Shs50,000 worth of airtime. This made me quite uneasy,” says Asaasira. “Worse still, she would get late-night calls from her workmates, some of whom would profess their love for her, and so on. As we were a young couple, this turned out to be a very frustrating thing. I very well understood that she would continue receiving such advances for a very long time, but the most important issue was how we, or rather she, would handle them.”
As a man, Asaasira made his concerns known to her, and they agreed that social calls had to end early in the evenings, if they were to build a healthy relationship and a strong family. Of course Ninsiima continued receiving such calls, but her response thereafter was much more firm, as she politely informed her admirers that she was a married woman, and avoided getting drawn into flirting. But although they did manage to surmount most of the problems, inconveniences that come with her duty calling still manifest between the two. “When it comes to her duty, this is something I have to live with. We now have a child whom I often have to explain to as to why mummy is sometimes not at home,” Asaasira laments. Asaasira also adds:
“People in Ninsiima’s profession can be difficult. They seem to think they have the best knowledge of the law. This means that arguments on the law with Ninsiima are something we cannot have.” This reminded me how difficult it is to get the better of a police officer, more especially when it comes to the ordinary folk. This is the power alluded to earlier. However, although they are perceived to wield this power, at the end of the day, they remain human beings, which explains Ninsiima’s fears that Asaasira would leave her for a ‘campus’ girl.
“We mostly get single trainees. In the case of a relationship gone bad, we have counsellors that are there to help such people,” observes Commissioner Moses Kafeero, the commandant of Kabalye police training school.
“We have not had trainees leaving the school because of boyfriends or girlfriends. However, when trainees feel that they need to leave, they follow a certain procedure and give good reasons. When the procedure is complete, we let them go,” adds Kafeero.