President Yoweri Museveni has ordered for the immediate procurement of escort vehicles and the provision of 'sharpshooters' for all members of parliament.
The directive is given in a letter dated June 29, 2018, to minister of Finance Matia Kasaija. The president's letter which has been provided to all 456 MPs in their pigeon halls says that members of parliament have been singled out for intimidation and possible attack and that he has decided to protect the MPs as the country awaits putting in place other security systems.
It also follows an outcry from a section of legislators for additional security following an increase in cases of kidnaps and murders of women in Wakiso and Entebbe, Muslim clerics, and a number of other prominent people over the last two years.
The latest was the assassination of Ibrahim Abiriga, the former Arua municipality MP last month. Abiriga, one of the architects of the constitutional amendment to remove the cap on the presidential age, was shot alongside his brother cum bodyguard Saidi Buga Kongo near his home in Kawanda, Wakiso district.
In the aftermath of his tragic death, Museveni announced a 10-point security plan to curb all forms of criminality in the country. The new strategies included, among others, equipping motor vehicles and motorcycles with tracker electronic number plates, provision of new helmets with illuminated numbers and installing street cameras.
The president also observed a need to reinstate the Police Flying Squad and acquisition of drones to track down drive-away criminals and the acquisition of truck scanners that can detect weapons and other illegal items being sneaked into the country, among other initiatives.
Following these measures presented before parliament recently, MPs separately met Museveni on June 28 and voiced reservations about police guards from the Counter-Terrorism and requested to be provided with army escorts.
"Members of parliament already have some police guards. Those will stay with them. I will, however, add two other elements: the sharpshooters of the army and follow pickups that will be used by these sharpshooters. The pick-ups will be protected, in simple ways, against small arms bullets. I can assure you, they will not be interesting targets for terrorists using Kalashnikovs," Museveni said.
He added that the sharpshooters and the police bodyguards should get personal body armour and helmets that are bullet resistant.
"I, therefore, direct you to immediately acquire a fleet of new 4 wheel drive pick-ups with open carriage beds. Provide additional money for these vehicles quickly. The army will use them to guard the members of parliament," the letter reads.
The president adds that when the new systems are put in place, the vehicles will be given to army officers as part of the fleet of the UPDF.
"When the systems are installed, we shall do away with the individualized security which is really a waste of resources - financial and manpower. Act fast and I expect speed," he concludes.
In his letter, Museveni says that crimes like the killings of six Muslim sheikhs, state prosecutor Joan Kagezi, kidnap and murder of Susan Magara and the killing of Assistant Inspector General of Police Felix Kaweesi were committed with the possible collusion of the police.
Besides MPs, Museveni's letter is copied to the Vice President Kiwanuka Ssekandi, Chief of Defence Forces Gen. David Muhoozi, minister of Defence, Adolf Mwesige and Secretary to Treasury Keith Muhakanizi.
Legislators however argued that the procurement of the pick-ups would negatively affect the already passed budget.
“If you look at the budget, so many priorities were omitted because we could not be able to provide for. When we wanted government to take care of all the elders through the sage programme across the country, government said there was no money.
When we asked government to stock drugs in hospitals, government says no money. Community access roads are so dilapidated that people cannot access markets, health services and a number of other important centres they would want to reach. Government should have focused on all these priorities than buying MPs pick-ups,” Maracha MP Denis Lee Oguzu said.
“This now confirms our earlier assertion that this government would probably be one of the most extravagant governments Uganda has had in history. Already state house is costing Ugandans a lot of money and here we are imposing tax on Ugandans- where shall we get this money from?” Oguzu added.
Government chief whip Ruth Nankabirwa said she could not comment in her capacity.
“The Finance minister will explain to us where he is going to get that money, where he is going to cut if he is to cut because the budget is already done. But normally, unforeseen demands may arise and when it happens, the minister of finance may go back to the budget to find where to cut because we cannot create new monies,” Nankabirwa said.
A member of the parliamentary committee on budget that preferred not to be named said a new pick-up as described by the president would cost not less than Shs 200m but government can buy it at more than Shs 250m each.
If each pick-up goes for Shs 250m, about Shs 150bn would be required to procure the pick –ups for the MPs in the 10th parliament. Currently, there are 453 MPs with about 15 more expected after elections in the new municipalities and districts.
Museveni's privilege directive has drawn some criticism from a section of Ugandans.
A sneak peek in how traffic in Kampala will be once the MPs acquire their bullet proof military trucks with army sharp shooters as escorts. Parliament should gazette specific time for the MPs movement @Parliament_Ug @ccgea1 @KampalaTraffic @UPDFspokespersn @PoliceUg pic.twitter.com/3zct3sXfDK— Bireete Sarah (@SarahBireete) July 12, 2018