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The security aftermath of 7/11

By Isaac Mufumba

LCs role in community policing back on the agenda

The Igbo, a tribe in Nigeria, say that: Whenever you see a toad jumping in broad daylight, then know that something is after its life.

What would you think if you saw three ministers rush to parliament on the same afternoon to issue three separate statements about the same subject? It would have to be a crisis.

Such was the situation on July 13 when Matia Kasaija (Internal Affairs), Amama Mbabazi (Security) and Crispus Kiyonga (Defense), issued statements about the July 11 bomb attacks that rocked Kampala killing 79 people and injuring scores more.

When we introduce additional security measures we expect the public to support them Security Minister Mbabazi told parliament. And with that changes at policy and legislative levels were put in place.

First government made it mandatory for proprietors of public buildings and people who entertain others in public places to acquire metal detectors and conduct body and car searches.

Then on July 14, the Regulation of Interception Bill (2007), which had been on the floor of parliament for more than two years amid concerns that it would infringe on citizens’ right to privacy, was hastily passed. This paved the way for government to legally monitor telephone, email and text communication of  anybody under suspicion of committing a crime.

Finally, in early August, President Museveni issued a policy directive to the Ministry of Finance to waive taxes on security equipment, which includes CCTV cameras, walk-in and hand detectors.

Although metal detectors are now ubiquitous in the city and …are no longer subject to taxes, the implementation of the Regulation of Interception has yet to be implemented.

Nathan Igeme Nabeta, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Information Communication Technology (ICT), says it will take some time before the Regulation of Interception Law becomes operational. The government requires funds to equip and run a communication monitoring center and those resources were not provided for in the 2009/2010 budget.

“Right now the law isn’t useful in the fight against terror,” says Nabeta.

This problem, however, is a recurring theme in government. In May 2002, the Anti-Terrorism Act was passed, but has never been made operational. The law, which includes specifics about terrorism investigations and punishments, also includes provisions on communication monitoring and interception.

Amama Mbabazi insisted in parliament that the Regulation of Interception Law was more “specific” because it will also account for the supervision of text messages, emails and letters, which had not been incorporated into the Anti-Terrorism Act.

As the executive works on implementing its “specific laws”, Resident District Commissioners (RDC) have embarked on an exercise to push Local Councils (LC) back into community policing.

Nakawa Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Fred Bamwine has ordered LCs to resume some of their former policing roles, which includes registering LC village residents, any prospective residents, visitors and hotel guests.

However, until fresh Local Council elections are held in line with the April 2, 2007 Constitutional Court ruling they cannot dispense justice in minor cases or take pre-emptive action against a potential crime. The 2007 ruling nullified the election of village and parish councils and ordered that new ones be elected under the multi-party political order,

Bamwine told The Independent that the registration exercise began a week after the bomb attacks and is now gaining momentum. The only drawback, he says, is that most of the LCs are suffering from a crisis of confidence, and are not as zealous as they should be.

Now the question that remains is how effective will these changes at both the national and local levels be in fighting terrorism?

Kasaija says that funds have already been secured to computerize and install biometric technology in the immigration department, a move which should enhance its capacity to keep records and avert the possibility of issuing multiple passports, visas and work permits to the same individuals.

All possible measures are being undertaken at government level, he says, but it is important that LCs and the communities take the lead in policing. Popular vigilance, is the perfect weapon against terror. This way communities will be able to keep tabs on one another and identify illegal immigrants and suspected criminals in a more effective way than the enlisted security operatives.

Until we get sophisticated enough to use cameras and trackers, the answer lies in popular vigilance because and LC will easily point the foreigner out Kasaija told The Independent.

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