18 November 2012

Uganda: MPs Should Be Worried About New Security Setup

Photo: New Vision/File
Rioting police wives hold police boss hostage.


The screaming Observer headline Ugly row as ISO, police take over MPs security calls for comment.

There is no doubt that in this era of terrorism we have to go an extra mile to protect our Members of Parliament and the institution of Parliament. It is central to improving quality of life, development and enjoyment of fundamental freedoms.

However, the two questions to ask are: in what way does the appointment of AIGP Lemmy Twinomugisha improve on what Kagoye has provided for the last 23 years? Secondly, does his appointment undermine or solidify the independence of Parliament?

I do not know why Twinomugisha thought that Kagoye's statement of balancing security and democratic access was "written in bad faith." Kagoye simply picked it from the Canadian House of Commons where the vision of the security department is captured: "the House of Commons Security services preserve the delicate balance between protecting parliamentarians and the functions of parliament and respecting the right of Canadians to have access to the Precinct and their legislators."

Whoever is in charge of security in Parliament must reflect that principle. If Twinomugisha does not believe in that principle, then the Parliamentary Commission must, as a matter of urgency, sponsor him and his deputies to a course at the Federal law Enforcement Training, USA, and thereafter an attachment to the United States Capitol Police, plus another attachment to the Sergeant at Arms directorate in Britain. It will take about one year but it is a definite necessity.

The Uganda Police has been militarized since the appointment of Maj Gen Kale Kayihura. The principle guiding its officers is therefore not based on preservation of law and order or prevention and detection of crime. It is preservation of the regime in power. And I do not blame them for that approach. It is what they have been taught.

That is why you see pictures of policemen beating up the wives of their colleagues and throwing them on pickups like bags of potatoes simply because of a peaceful demonstration. To demonstrate is equated to Dr Besigye: an enemy of the State. A police officer in the Uganda of today is ill-suited to head parliamentary security.

It is not a matter of the rank and taking orders from retired ASP Kagoye. It is who ultimately is responsible for the security of Parliament. Paul D. Living, the present sergeant at arms of the US House of Representatives, was never in the US police force.

The sergeant at arms of the Senate and the Capitol Architect form the US Capitol Police Board responsible for oversight over the Capitol Police. It is that police which protects the US 'Parliament' and 'Parliamentarians.' The two sergeants are the chief law enforcement officers of the American Parliament. There is Chief of Police for parliament and over 2,000 policemen under the two sergeants at arms.

In Britain, Jill Pay, who served as sergeant at arms until January this year was a former civil servant and businesswoman. She was never in the police or army. Yet a whole 'battalion' of police officers were answerable to her for four years. And all this at the time of heightened terrorism against Britain.

All these examples show one thing: security of Parliament is in the hands of Parliament. Yes, national security agencies play a role, but they are never ultimately responsible for the security of Parliament. They are always subordinate to an official of Parliament. This is to ensure the independence of Parliament. With greatest respect, I think the Parliamentary Commission has ceded its power and authority to the Executive.

Twinomugisha's argument that Kagoye is not a serving officer clearly shows that in his mind a sergeant at arms should be a serving officer, part of the executive arm of government. That alone should frighten the Parliamentary Commission. The thrust of the Administration of Parliament Act 1997 was to delink the parliamentary civil service from the executive to ensure parliamentary independence.

Secondly, why is it impossible for Kagoye to coordinate with other security agencies? He has done so for the last 23 years. Why is it that Twinomugisha today is able do the coordination and Kagoye cannot? Is it about individuals?

Lastly, it should frighten the Parliamentary Commission that Twinomugisha sees his role as reporting to Kale Kayihura. That is a setback; it will ultimately undermine the capacity of Parliament to hold government to account.

The author is a former parliamentary commissioner and EALA MP

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