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Museveni's many security organs: A ticking time bomb

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Black Mamba: One of the many security squads in Uganda’s military.President Yoweri Museveni built his government on its reputed ability to provide security. For many Ugandans, the knowledge that nobody is going to break into their house in the middle of the night to rob them, or waylay them by the roadside to snatch their little possessions on gunpoint is the difference Museveni brought to their lives. And for this, millions of them, especially in the villages, continuously turn out to vote him at every presidential election.

It is easy to understand why. When Museveni captured power in January 1986, he inherited a moribund state that had failed to control the armed forces, leaving the citizens and their property under perpetual threat from state goons. But it seems Museveni has achieved this by not only restoring discipline in the armed forces but by creating a new security structure comprising a myriad units with overlapping roles that many are beginning to fear could be the source of insecurity now and in future.

Today, there are at least 30 different security outfits in the country carved out of the police, army, and statutory intelligence organs, many of them operating independent of the mother organisations but nearly all reporting directly to the president or his trusted lieutenants. Some are statutory, and therefore constitutional, and others are administrative“ and mostly unconstitutional.

These security outfits include: Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), Joint Anti-Terrorism Taskforce (JATT), Internal Security Organisation (ISO), External Security Organisation (ESO), Rapid Response Unit (RRU), Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU), Oil Wells Protection Unit, Special Revenue Protection Unit (SRPU), Popular Intelligence Network (PIN), State House Counter-Intelligence Unit (SHCIU), and Special Investigations Bureau (SIB).

The others are; Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF), Special Forces (SF), Presidential Guard Brigade (PGB), Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Uganda Police Force (UPF), Special Police Constables (SPC), Para-Military Police, Land Protection Unit (LPU), Child Counter-trafficking Unit (CCTU) and Crime Intelligence Unit (CIU).

This is in addition to a dozen militia groups, among them Amuka Boys, Arrow Boys, Civic Defence Unit (CDU), Kalangala Action Plan (KAP), Local Defence Unit (LDU), and Frontier Guards, among others.

The proliferation of security organisations especially in the later years of Museveni has raised many questions within the public, principal of which are; where does their funding come from? Are they provided for in the structures of the police, army or intelligence as provided for in the constitution? Where does their loyalty lie“ country or Museveni as an individual? Are these organs responsible for the "prevailing security" or are they the secret to Museveni's long stay in power“ 23 years unbroken? Does it ultimately tell us that the regime is more insecure, is more vulnerable and must protect itself against the masses by building many walls around itself?

National security or regime security?

Uganda Poenlice: Maj. Gen. Kale KayihuraAccording to a high ranking security official who preferred not to be named, this state of affairs should be seen through the concept of national security which revolves around three pillars – the state, the regime and the citizenry. According to this concept, state + citizen (human & property) security = national security. Regime security is part of state security but the two are not fused. So ultimately, security is achieved not when regime security is paramount but when state and citizen security are paramount.

The question therefore is; do these myriad statutory and informal security organs reinforce state, citizen or regime security?

"The proliferation of different security organisations will undermine citizen security as the regime consolidates its security and ultimately, it undermines state institutions and therefore state security," the official told The Independent.

For many observers, the current situation is not at all surprising because Museveni's objective and strategy would ultimately produce a given security structure and in this case because his objective was always to retain power and the strategy to do so using the military. It is inevitable that we would end up with several dozen security outfits.

"There are two things that define President Museveni; he is inherently undemocratic and inherently militaristic “ and he has never deviated from this," says Prof. Fredrick Juuko, a senior lecturer at Makerere University's Faculty of Law, adding "it is the combination of this that has led to the atomisation and proliferation of informal security organs under Museveni."

UPDF: Gen.Aronda NyakairimaAccording to Prof. Juuko, the president's strategy first involved personalising politics. Thus, the first form was the atomisation of politics by creating the concept of individual merit which had the ultimate result of denying people the right to associate and aggregate their interests. But this left the armed forces as the only organised interest group so he had to break it up, he said.

"Fragmentation is an instrument of domination, militarisation of the country and also personalisation of the state," surmised Prof. Juuko.

Intelligence as popular vigilance

A former director in one of the intelligence organisations who has understudied Museveni's approach to security says we should not be surprised by the proliferation of many security outfits.

“Museveni does not understand intelligence as an information gathering profession with people doing the job out of love of profession almost independent of their political biases," this source said, "He understands intelligence gathering from the prism of popular vigilance.

This former security director said that such an approach is understandable. The president's path to power was through a guerrilla struggle that was largely based in rural areas among a largely peasant population. He selected Luwero in Buganda because the vast majority of Baganda peasants – largely for ethnic reasons “ hated Milton Obote and therefore identified with the objectives of the struggle. Ordinary peasants were always vigilant to provide both food and information (intelligence) to the NRA on the movements of UNLA troops.