18 November 2012

Uganda: Parliament Must Balance Security and Independence


A week ago, The Observer reported a simmering row between the sergeant at arms at Parliament, Ahmed Kagoye and the senior officials of the Uganda Police Force (See Ugly row as ISO, police take over MPs security).

Our story pointed out that the police and intelligence organs, led by AIGP Lemmy Twinomugisha have effectively replaced the sergeant at arms as the head of parliamentary security, with the latter being rather diplomatic in displeasure. As seen from the positioning of that story, we believe this is a particularly important development that parliamentary authorities need think very carefully about.

In an era of terror threats, security is becoming ever more important. And in Uganda, we have fresh memories of two years ago, when our people were murdered by terrorists on the night of the football world cup finals. The Parliamentary Commission is, therefore, justified to try to enhance security for members and visitors of Parliament.

However, the commission must be aware of the principle of separation of powers and its importance for democracy. The need to secure Parliament needs to be balanced with that principle. It seems rather curious that the head of security at Parliament says that in case of any problem, he will report to his boss, who is the Inspector General of Police.

While, in principle, that may not be a problem, we urge Parliament to be a bit more nuanced in their analysis of Uganda's political setup. Only recently, Mr Andrew Kaweesi, an educated senior police officer, while apparently trying to justify police's beating up of journalists on duty, accused scribes of being opposition supporters.

What does that tell you about Mr Kaweesi? What does that say about his understanding of the role of the fourth estate? What does that tell you about where his loyalty lies - the rulers or the law?

What does that tell you about the police's understanding of the opposition; does he see the opposition as legitimate participants in nation-building or as enemies of the state? And if that is the police that is taking over security of Parliament, what safeguards is it building in to protect the institution's independence?

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