With the country locked in the throes of a “security crisis” marked by a spate of high-profile assassinations, MPs are living on the edge with some saying they are receiving death threats while others say they have been trailed by suspected assailants.
Over the past one month, at least three MPs have come out in Parliament to say their lives are under threat, saying they were being trailed by motorcycle riding strangers.
A number of MPs, sources say, have secretly registered fears over their lives with the authorities at Parliament.
Away from Parliament, a number of Opposition politicians say their lives are in danger and they are taking measures to try and elude the people they think are hunting them.
What is missing in the discussion about assassinations and feared assassinations, however, is the motive of the killers.
President Museveni and security bosses have spoken about the recent killings on many occasions, but they hardly comment on why Ugandans are being killed, driving up fear among many.
One puzzling thing about the killings is the victims are drawn from a wide spectrum, including an ardent supporter of the establishment (former Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga), a critic of the establishment (former policeman Muhammad Kirumira), a prosecutor (Joan Kagezi), Muslim clerics, and former police spokesperson Andrew Felix Kaweesi.
In the recent past, the victims of the killings first claimed their lives were in danger and they indeed got killed in the end.
This was true with Kirumira, Abiriga and Kaweesi, and before them, Muslim clerics.
In light of this trend, the Parliamentary Commission is not taking the claims lightly, and it on Monday met over MPs’ security fears and resolved to write to President Museveni asking him to order intelligence organs to enquire into case-by-case threats faced by MPs and compile a report to guide the next course of action.
An MP who attended the meeting said the Parliament Commission will give details of the threats faced by individual MPs to President Museveni and ask him to direct intelligence services to investigate the specific threats.
The Parliamentary Commission has also advised MPs who are facing security threats not to divulge vital details about the nature of threats they face in order not to give potential assassins clues and also throw investigations off-balance.
The commission also turned down a proposal by Mr Museveni for each of the over 400 MPs to be given an armoured vehicle with army sharpshooters on grounds that such a security venture is not economically viable.
When Mr Museveni announced the security measures for MPs in July, this newspaper interviewed car manufacturers who revealed that a 2017/18 model bullet-proof Land Cruiser pick-up costs about $520,000 (about Shs1.9b) while a 2017/18 model bullet-proof Hilux pick-up costs about $166,000 (Shs630m). Based on such estimates, to procure bullet-proof cars for the 456 MPs at Shs1.9b each, government would pay out Shs866b, which dwarfs the less than Shs600b that the police force is allocated per year. By the same estimates, a 2017/18 bullet-proof Hilux model at Shs630m would cost government Shs287b.
MP Arinaitwe Rwakajara, a commissioner, who attended the Monday Parliament Commission meeting, confirmed that each individual threat will be handled on its own merits based on a report to the President.
“There are [MPs] that have been receiving messages. Some are getting information that they are blacklisted and will be finished. But of course with the general security situation, everyone is fearing for life,” he said.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga told MPs that the Parliament Commission convened over growing security fears but said she would not divulge details of the resolutions reached.
“We [Parliamentary Commission] agreed that those MPs who feel endangered shall ask government to give them special attention depending on the degree of concern to their security,” Ms Kadaga to MPs.
MPs started ringing alarm bells that they were fearful for the lives during the run-up to the debate and passing of the controversial Constitution Amendment Bill that removed presidential age limit from the Constitution last year.
As tempers flared over the removal of presidential age limits late last year, some MPs who were very outspoken in favour of removing age limits ran to President Museveni who in turn provided them with guards from the Special Forces Command (SFC).
Some of the MPs that were provided with SFC guards are Raphael Magyezi (Igara West), Jacob Oboth-Oboth (West Budama South), Grace Balyeku (Jinja Municipality West), Simeo Nsubuga (Kassanda South) and Peter Ogwang (Usuk County).
With MPs already living on the edge, the killing of Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga on June 8 further stoked the fears. President Museveni directed the Finance ministry to immediately buy escort vehicles for all the 456 MPs while the army would provide them with “sharp shooters” to protect them from what he called “terrorists.”
This week, Busongora North MP William Nzoghu and Buhweju County MP Francis Mwijukye talked of security threats to their lives. Mbale Woman MP Connie Nakayenze expressed similar fears for her life last week.
MP Nzoghu reported to MPs that he has noticed suspicious people trailing him up to his home.
“I noticed suspicious persons trailing me. Even at my home, we are seeing suspicious people around my perimeter wall. My life is in danger. I want the government to assure me whether I am safe. This country is slipping into a situation where we are not sure of what is happening,” Mr Nzoghu said.
Mr Mwijukye gave details on how he was trailed from a supermarket in Bukoto, a suburb near the city centre to Gayaza in Wakiso, a stretch that is around 15kms.
“When I left Parliament, I went to UMI (Uganda Management Institute) where I am studying and when I left UMI, I went and stopped in Bukoto, bought things in the supermarket and when I was going home, I saw people following me. I reached Kyanja and I asked the driver to rotate around the roundabout about three times. We sped off towards Gayaza road,” Mr Mwijukye said.