21 September 2017

Uganda: MPs Blocked From House As Army, Police Enforce Tightened Security Rules

Photo: Alex Esagala/Daily Monitor
Security officers deployed at the main gate of Parliament.

Kampala — Heavily armed Anti-terrorism police, some brandishing machine guns, backed by the military have deployed around Parliament building this Thursday as lawmakers make an early dash to the House ahead of crucial afternoon session.

Igara West Member of Parliament Raphael Magyeni is expected in a few hours to seek leave of Parliament to table a motion to amend Article 102 (b) and related provisions to, among other things, scrap the presidential age limit.

Lawmakers, without notification by the Speaker, are being asked to park their vehicles outside Parliament and some of them are having tough time accessing what ordinarily is their work place.

Today is no such an ordinary day, says Buhweju MP Francis Mwijukye, who claims security forces have taken over the House.

"It's very clear that the leadership of the House is not in charge. We shall not allow that. We want to ask the Speaker or her deputy to get police and army out of the precincts of the House. This is not a barracks," Mr Mwinjukye tells our sister television station, NTV.

At Parliament, counter-terrorism personnel in black uniforms have deployed at all gates and soldiers in armoured vehicles are patrolling city streets. Some of the roads have been sealed off to prevent demonstrators.

Kasese Municipality MP Centenary Robert spent close to an hour bargaining for entrance to Parliament, a move the Leader of the Opposition Winfred Kiiza (FDC, Kasese) condemned.

Ms Kiiza says the overwhelming show of force being displayed by the government is unjustified and warns against the planned amendment. She says President Museveni should be alive to the fact that "the position you occupy today has been occupied by others before you.

Uganda has had eight presidents since independence from Britain in 1962.

A section of MPs had to form a security ring around MP Theodore Ssekikubo (NRM, Lwemiyaga) following reports that police who summoned him a couple of days ago to record a statement in relation to anti-age limit removal utterances he made last week, were to arrest him on sight. Investigators say the lawmaker and three others opposed to lifting of the term limit incited violence and that their communication was offensive.

A jubilant Mr Ssekikubo walked through the main gate surrounded by colleagues who locked hands around him.

He vowed to block MP Magyezi from making his presentation on the floor of Parliament later this afternoon.

MP Mwijukye says he hitched a ride on a boda boda after police who surrounded his home overnight clamped his car.

On Thursday, Agago County MP Prof Ogenga Latigo said he had been denied access to Parliament.

Kasese Municipality MP Robert Centenary had also been blocked.

"Now we are not allowed into Parliament. What madness is this?" he said before he finally accessed the House.

The massing of security forces, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah said on Wednesday, was on the invitation of the House leadership after some lawmakers threatened violence and disruption of House business on Thursday.

The Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura said on Wednesday that they had received intelligence clues that some unnamed people planned to set Parliament and fuel stations in the city centre ablaze.

He has made similar claims in the past whenever the country dipped in trying political times.

"Police recognises and has always facilitated the exercise, of the right to demonstrate peacefully and unarmed as provided in the constitution. However, at the same time police has the obligation under the constitution to keep law and order, prevent crime, as well as protecting life and property" IGP Kayihura's statement reads.

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