New boss reports to Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura; Sergeant-at-Arms feels sidelined amid reports that hundreds of security personnel are to be deployed in Parliament
Serious but muted fighting is going on between the Parliament Sergeant-At-Arms, Ahmed Kagoye, originally in-charge of Security and the Estates department at Parliament, and senior officers of the Uganda Police force, led by Assistant Inspector General of Police, Lemmy Twinomugisha, following a recent decision by the Parliamentary commission to expand the former Police Station into a full Directorate of Police.
On Monday last week, Kagoye wrote an emotional email to the parliamentary staff and copied to all Members of Parliament. In the email, he told the MPs and staff that they should henceforth not address security matters to him but to the new commandant.
"Following the upgrading of the Parliamentary Police Station into a Directorate, the Parliamentary Commission made some changes in the schedule of duties of the Sergeant-At-Arms. The security details which were previously under the Sergeant-At-Arms were handed over to the Commandant Parliamentary Police Directorate."
He added: "The purpose of this communication is to inform you of that change and to request you to forward all security-related matters within and around the precincts of parliament to him."
On the face of it, the email appeared innocent, coming off as an announcement communicating the changes to the internal publics within parliament. But it was not, at least going by the last part of the email as well as earlier events at the august House that suggest some hidden reasons behind the misunderstanding.
"I wish to take this opportunity to thank all stakeholders i.e. all Security agencies, Members of Parliament, staff of the service and members of the press for their support, cooperation and guidance for the last 23 years when I have been the Head of Security and responsible for ensuring that this key institution of Government is safe and secure for everybody to discharge their functions because it has not been easy."
"For that period I have appreciated the need to balance security and democratic access so that members of the public are able to access their parliament and watch democracy at work because the cardinal principal in parliamentary security is security with courtesy."
This last part of the email surprised AIGP Twinomugisha who described it as "written in bad faith".
On Friday, Commissioner Elijah Okupah said the decision to restructure was made following a study carried out in Sri Lanka, India and Israel. He said they held a meeting where they appreciated that the more senior rank of Twinomugisha could not allow him to take orders from Kagoye, a retired Assistant Superintendent of Police - ASP. Okupah said they had not realized there was a fight going on until he saw the letter. He said, however, that the misunderstanding was a small matter that would be resolved.
On his part, Twinomugisha explained why the Police had decided to take full control of the security of parliament.
"The Sergeant-At-Arms is not a serving officer. The current level of terrorism threat against Uganda is too high, with parliament being one of the prime places due to the high concentration of Very Important Persons", Twinomugisha told this reporter on Wednesday.
"How would Kagoye coordinate with all other security agencies if al-Shabab attacked here? The problem is that many of us do not appreciate change, even if it is for a good cause," he said.
He explained that under the new arrangement, Parliament would now have all security agencies deployed in the premises - Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force (JATT), regular police, traffic, CID and Internal Security Organisation (ISO). Twinomugisha's role would be to monitor security on a daily basis and report to his boss, the police chief Kale Kayihura, and to coordinate with any of the security agencies in case of a problem.
It was not immediately clear what implications this change would have for MPs. But in effect, this gives Kayihura more influence into policing of Parliament, which, presumably, should make the MPs and visitors feel more secure. It could also mean that opposition MPs could find themselves working in closer proximity with state spies, something some might find disconcerting.
Before this row, Kagoye was earlier involved in another one with a former OC Station, Kasirabo, who left after disagreement over who should be responsible for the security docket. Leader of Opposition, Nandala Mafabi, could not be reached for comment by press time; but Kyadondo East MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda questioned the wisdom of deploying many state security personnel at Parliament.
"Museveni would like to create the impression that we are under imminent threat of terrorism everywhere," Nganda said. He added that some traffic police were now in the parking yard, guiding MPs on how to park their vehicles.
Both Kagoye and Twinomugisha last week declined to discuss the full details of what additional personnel and budget would be required for the police directorate to run. But this reporter recently learnt that an initial budget of over 1.5 billion shillings to kick start the new security structure was rejected as high by the commission during a meeting held some two months ago. It is not yet clear whether that budget has been reviewed and passed already.
A source within the Clerk's office, speaking on condition of anonymity, said this issue of the huge security budget was actually the real reason for the fight over the restructuring.
The source revealed that the police had also proposed to deploy up to about 503 officers to guard parliament as well as individual MPs.They revealed that a number of MPs want at least two policemen to guard them; one at home and another in their car to move with.
If passed, the matter is sure to cause another big debate over the already bloated costs of expenditure for our parliament whose huge numbers have now swelled up to 375 MPs, with more yet to come once more districts start operating. Twinomugisha said he had briefed Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who had promised to look into the matter today.
Main duties of Sergeant-At-Arms
To provide proper security to Members of Parliament, staff, visitors and facilities within the precincts of Parliament.
To undertake ceremonial duties.
To provide health and safety services.
To provide maintenance and cleaning services.
To advise on the allocation of offices and committee