Bukomansimbi. President Museveni has halted the planned recruitment of vigilantes and soliciting of Shs1,000 as security fees from each household in Bukomansimbi District.
The move comes barely a week after local leaders and residents agreed to form vigilante groups to guard villages at night with an aim of seeking a permanent solution to night attacks which have persisted in the area.
Every household was expected to pay Shs1, 000 every month as security fees to facilitate the operations of the vigilante groups.
While communicating the presidential directive to residents on Wednesday, the State Minister for Internal Affairs, Mr Kania Obiga, said: “The President notes that this is unacceptable and must stop immediately. In terms of the constitutional provisions, recruitment and training of any forces whether militia or otherwise, is a prerogative of the central government.”
The minister stressed that if each community is allowed to have vigilante groups it may cause anarchy in the country.
Vigilantes are groups of self-appointed citizens who undertake law enforcement in their community without legal authority.
Payment of security fees had already created a heated public debate not only in Bukomansimbi but across the country as it seemed to be a vote of no confidence in the security system.
Mr Obiga said charging security fees may also cause a conflict in the communities as there are no clear guidelines on how and to whom the money should be paid to.
But the Bukomansimbi Resident District Commissioner, Mr Mukasa Kityo, said the fees were intended to buy overcoats and torches as well as paying some allowance to the vigilantes.
Local leaders led by the district chairperson, Mr Muhammad Kateregga, said they could not look on as machete-wielding thugs continue killing their people after security agencies had failed to handle the situation.
“The government has come up with this directive, but it will not be helpful. We pray that the President gets a second thought on his directive,” Mr Kateregga said.
He added that they are going to ensure that the matter is tabled before the district council so that a by-law regularising the operations of the vigilante groups is passed .
“Tentatively, we will have a meeting as leaders from greater Masaka sub-region and study the presidential directive carefully,” he said.
Mr Latif zaake, the southern regional police commander, said as police they are emphasising community policing where communities are allowed to work under already established structures.
“We (police) have never told any person to pay any single coin for security, what we have always emphasised is the revival of Mayumba Kumi (Ten Cell system) to help strengthen neigbourhood watch, crime preventers system and community policing. We still believe in these philosophies,” Mr Zaake said.
However, the minister warned that crime preventers should not be considered as an alternative to policemen in villages.
“We have heard of incidents where police officers leave crime preventers to be in charge of the [police] stations. This should not be the case,” Mr Obiga said.
On the New Year’s Day, assailants descended on four villages in Bukomansimbi and Lwengo districts, killing five people including a retired senior police officer and leaving 11 others injured. Similar attacks have been experienced in other districts in the past years.