Kampala. Stunned by the recent wave of high-profile assassinations, Members of Parliament will now get military guards from the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF), the legislators and President Museveni agreed in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday.
In the meeting, MPs alarmed by the recent wave of high-profile killings and, particularly, the June 8 gunning down of Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga, told Mr Museveni that they had received death threats via social media platforms and mobile phones.
Mr Museveni directed the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), Gen David Muhoozi, to work with the Commandant of the Parliamentary Police, Superintendent of Police Anabella Nyamahoro to handle the process of enhancing MPs’ security. Mr Nyamahoro was in the meeting.
The Finance ministry will be co-opted to handle the cost implications of this security arrangement.
Gen Muhoozi, the Inspector General of Police, Mr Martins Okoth-Ochola and Director of CID Grace Akullo also attended the meeting.
Sources said the President directed that MPs be provided with army escorts after the legislators voiced reservations about guards from the Counter-Terrorism Police.
The MPs, who supported the controversial Constitution Amendment Bill that was passed in December to remove presidential age limits, were provided with Counter-Terrorism police guards as infuriated voters threatened to harm them.
Obongi County MP Hassan Kaps Fungaroo, who defied an Opposition boycott and attended the meeting with the President, said MPs of the ruling NRM party reported to the President that they prefer UPDF to police guards and also requested for escort cars.
“This work is going to be mainly done by the UPDF. Police [guards] that were guarding MPs were running away [because] they consider guarding MPs to be a risky business.
That the circumstances under which they [guards] work endanger their lives,” Mr Fungaroo said.
The guards will only work for six months, a period Mr Museveni anticipates his proposals to improve national security will have been implemented.
During the meeting, Mr Museveni also revealed that a Chinese firm will supply the CCTV cameras, a key component of his security master plan to defeat criminals who have been kidnapping and killing people with impunity.
Sources further said Mr Museveni additionally proposed that private individuals should procure private cameras and install them on their premises pending amendment of the relevant laws to compel landlords to fix CCTV cameras on their houses before they are rented out.
The MPs that attended the meeting said Mr Museveni was non-committal on whether legislators will be provided with escort cars but that he expressed concern that guards assigned to them were travelling in the same cars with them.
The NRM Caucus secretary general, Mr Joseph Kasozi (Bukoto Mid-West MP), said the National Security Council will work out the details of whether MPs will get escort cars or not considering budgetary implications the arrangement will have.
“There are some MPs who have been getting threatening messages. The President said MPs who feel that they are not comfortable with police will have police guards withdrawn and they get well-trained UPDF soldiers,” Mr Kasozi said.
Aringa South MP Alioni Yorke Odria raised the issue of security even at MPs’ homes, saying the threats they face are not manifested by only assassins trailing them on motorcycles.
Mr Odria told Mr Museveni that targeted security measures should not be accorded to NRM MPs only but to Opposition MPs too.
It is unclear under which law the President will provide guards for MPs as the Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act 1955, the law that defines the powers, privileges and immunities of Parliament and MPs does not provide for security guards to legislators.
Mr Chris Obore, the director of communication and public affairs at Parliament, said Mr Museveni was using his powers as Commander-In-Chief to provide guards for MPs.
“The President is the Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces.
He is the one who can direct on deployment of the forces. The President is the head of State and the first accountability for the safety of any citizen is with the head of State,” Mr Obore said.
In the Tuesday meeting, Katerera County MP Hatwib Katoto and Kitagwenda MP Abas Agaba separately asked the President about security on Uganda’s water bodies.
Mr Museveni responded that radars will be installed on major water bodies to enhance marine security.
Kawempe North MP Latif Ssebagala asked Mr Museveni about what he called targeting and profiling of Muslims for the rising crime in the country.
The President refuted the claim and said Muslims played a pivotal role in the 1981-86 Bush War that brought him to power and therefore the State cannot target them. He pointed out NRM National Vice Chairman Moses Kigongo as an example of prominent Muslims in government.