Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Since President Yoweri Museveni ordered the Ministry of Finance to provide army snipers and bullet-proof escort cars for MPs, the Daily Monitor newspaper has been running stories unpacking the implication of the directive.
One of the stories pointed out that the government could end up spending as much as Shs866 billion to protect the MPs.
The newspaper said in interviews, some manufacturers had revealed that a 2017/18 model bullet-proof Land Cruiser pick-up could cost about $520,000 (Approx. Shs1.9 billion) while a 2017/18 model bullet-proof Hilux pick-up costs about $166,000 (Shs630 million).
The course is, of course, mind-blowing. But what got me really thinking is the image of a typical MP, cruising along the Kampala-Mbarara Highway in their favourite vehicle, the Toyota Land Cruiser TX – which might be anything from the Third Generation Prado of 2002-2008 or the newer Fourth Generation Prado of 2009 to present which are bigger in the five-door version and are in the TXL or VXL grade. These luxury SUVs have a base price of US$85,000 (About Shs320 million) minus taxes, insurance, and freight charges (which could double the cost and explains why most MPs buy from the local used market at between Shs50 million and Shs100 million). The local Toyota dealership in Namanve has the Land Cruiser 200 VX-R, most likely from South Africa where it goes for between US$75,000 and 100,000).
Meanwhile, depending of security plan; either behind or in front the MPs second-hand jalopy would be the bullet-proof Land Cruiser pick-up which costs Shs1.9 billion. Really, does that make sense?
A look at President Museveni’s own security detail makes clear the sheer senselessness of the deal. Of course, the President’s security is top secret. But at one point the President acquired a Mercedes Benz Pullman, a limousine that combines top security functions and luxury. This huge vehicle looks ordinary but it can withstand bullets and explosives and its interior can act as a bunker in case of attack. In this case, the President’s guards, with their open pick-ups, have far less protection.
That means there is an easier way to protect MPs – simply buy them armoured vehicles which look like civilian vehicles. My pick for them is the Range Rover series since some MPs already drive some ordinary ones. They can upgrade to the 5.0-litre V8 armored version which has a bullet resistant exterior and is capable of still operating on flat tyres, with self-sealing gas tank, and side blast grenade and high caliber bullet protection.