By Obed K. Katureebe
New CMI boss writes dossier on money lending racket
On August 11, 2008, Brig. James Mugira called a meeting of the Joint Anti-Terrorism Taskforce (JATT) at the organization’s headquarters on Summit View hill in Kololo. Mugira had just taken over leadership of Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), the organisation that is supposed to be the chair of JATT but which literally runs the taskforce singlehandedly.
Mugira was not a new face at JATT having been CMI Chief before being transferred to command the armored Brigade in Masaka in 2005. As the meeting began, Mugira was besieged by complaints from members of staff.
The headquarters of JATT has not had water supply for two months, staff said. They could not flush toilets, shower, wash their clothes or clean the offices. Why? He asked. We have not paid National Water and Sewerage Corporation, staff answered. Why don’t you pay them? Mugira shot back. There is no money, was the answer. Mugira adjusted himself in the seat and listened.
Since that meeting, JATT which was formed in 1999 to fight terrorism has come under scrutiny.
JATT was formed when Uganda was besieged by threats of terrorist bomb attacks by groups related to the Al Qaeda network and its activities are paid for by the US government under America’s global programme of aiding friendly countries and its war against terror.
Consequently, JATT operational monies come from the ministry of internal affairs although JATT is under CMI, which is itself under the minister of defence.
Reports now indicate that JATT is not only broke but it is also heavily indebted up to the tune of Shs 500m according to some sources.
According to The Independent’s investigations, JATT was supposed to receive about Shs 100m per month in allowances to staff for operational expenses. This money used to come regularly to the taskforce when CMI was under Brig. Henry Tumukunde, Brig. Noble Mayombo and later Mugira. Problems were first noticed when Col. Leopold Kyanda took over in 2005.
According to JATT staff, when the Americans release the monthly budget, the JATT bosses routinely loan it to loan sharks in town who in turn lend it out at high interest. Once the lending has yielded a profit, the loan sharks then return it to JATT and share the interest earned with the JATT bosses.
|Major CMI scandals
That is how JATT money artificially begins ‘delaying’ for as long as three months. This system has solidified and got worse over time.
This delay paralyses operational work of staff in JATT. They cannot afford to service or repair vehicles or buy fuel.
But as Mugira has quickly discovered, the ‘loan shark deal’ has been deliberately kept going because of a fear that complaints would get into the press. This would bring a lot of public attention to JATT activities, a factor that would compromise the taskforce both in the eyes of the public and donors, especially the Americans who would get concerned if any misappropriation of JATT money is confirmed.
So, even under Mugira, the money continues to go to loan sharks first.
The only difference now is that after listening to staff complaints and making his own remarks, sources say, Mugira decided to meet President Yoweri Museveni.
The aim of Mugira’s meeting with Museveni was to find a solution for the financially embattled body. The other was to update the president on the state of this once praised organisation and home of the dreaded Black Mambas Urban Hit Squad that had become prominent during the 2005/06 election period. In a brief to the president, Mugira said CMI and JATT have been generally run down.
In a major move, the flamboyant Col. Kyanda was four months ago shuffled out of CMI and posted to the US as a military attachÃ©. Now reports indicate that the one time blue eyed boy to President Yoweri Museveni could soon face prosecution in the Military Court Martial.
The Independent can exclusively report that plans are underway to have Kyanda recalled from his current duty station in the USA after intelligence reports linked him to offences including ‘abuse of office for personal enrichment’.
Early this month Mugira shuffled key heads of departments in what is seen as a start of the total overhauling of CMI.
In a radio communication to all units, Mugira sent some long serving CMI officers to Bombo for ‘further redeployments’.
Among those affected is Capt. Joseph Kamusiime who was acting in charge training at JATT. Capt. Kamusiime headed the unit from 2002-2006.
Also moved from CMI was Capt. Michael Kanyamunyu, the former special assistant to Col. Kyanda but whose mother unit is the Presidential Guard Brigade (PGB). Others who were transferred are Maj. W. Rubarema, Lt. E. Kyatuka and Lt. P.Okello.
Maj. Wycliffe Mubangizi was appointed new director Research and Analysis, while Maj. M. Butambika was promoted to Lt. Col .and appointed the new Director Counter Intelligence and Maj. N. Mwesigwa appointed Liaison officer oil exploration in the Albertine region while Maj. D.R Gonze is the new 3rd division intelligence officer.
Among issues Mugira has reportedly vowed to address, is the habit among JATT officers to run illegal detention centers which are euphemistically called ‘safe houses’ but which in reality are torture houses. One of such torture houses is the JATT headquarters on Summit View itself, next to the residence of the Danish Ambassador. Up to 40 people by some reports are being held illegally there without charge. Sometimes people are held in this detention center for two years on flimsy grounds such as being Muslim or cheating with someone’s wife or husband.
During the meeting with staff, Mugira made it clear that JATT should only arrest and detain those people with clear links to terrorism. He ordered that all other suspects with simple crimes that have little or nothing to do with overthrowing the government should be turned over to the police. He said he had found JATT worse than he left it adding that he had hoped to find the taskforce with its own headquarters. He found it still renting premises.
Since its formation, this unit has had over five bosses. Most have been removed amid reports of financial wrong-doing.
Retired Col. John Mugyenyi, who is now a wealthy businessman, was appointed head of this unit from 1999 to 2001. He was thrown out after opposition leader Col. Kizza Besigye managed to sneak out of the country into exile in South Africa. JATT had been assigned the sole role making sure that that Besigye does not escape from the country.
He was replaced by Maj. Kayanja Muhanga for one year. Kayanja was replaced by Capt. Joseph Kamusiime.
Kamusiime who served from 2002-2005 is said to have done great work while nabbing terrorists but in the same vain he is accused of having amassed lots of unexplainable wealth in a very short time as JATT chief.
Kamusiime was removed from JATT and instructed to move to Jinja for a company commander’s course.
He dropped out of the course citing health problems and later bounced back at JATT under the reign of Col. Leopold Kyanda as in charge training. Kamusiime was replaced by Lt. Col. Dominic Tiromwe who is currently Mugira’s deputy.
Tirwomwe was replaced by Maj. Dhamulira Serunjogi who is apparently doing a course in the US. The man currently in charge is Maj. Benson Mande.
A few weeks ago, Brig. James Mugira briefed president Museveni about the mess he has inherited at the CMI. Repeated attempts to get Brig. Mugira to comment on how far he has succeeded in his clean up at CMI failed. Military sources refused to confirm when Col. Kyanda will be recalled from the USA and plans to arraign him before the court martial.