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Tension as ISO fails to pay salaries for 6 months

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Intelligence body’s annual wages are only Shs. 38 billion

For the last six months intelligence operatives working for the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) have not received salaries and the agency is stuck with no operations’ money, raising concerns in the security establishment, an investigation by The Independent reveals.

Officials had expected to get paid last month but through an internal memo, they were requested to be patient until early next year.

Approved estimates of revenue and expenditure 2016/17 prepared by the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, show that the total budget for ISO is Shs. 60 billion.

Of this, Shs. 38 billion is wage and Shs. 21 is non-wage. That of the External Security Organisation (ESO), its sister body responsible for collecting intelligence beyond the Ugandan borders, is Shs. 27 billion. Shs. 12 billion is wage and Shs. 15 billion is non-wage.

The two bodies fall directly under the office of the President and State House. The budget of State House alone, has over the years swollen to Shs.258 billion—a big chunk of which goes into presidential donations.

For instance, in the 2014/2015 financial year, presidential donations swallowed Shs. 90 billion and required an extra Shs. 65 billion to take care of verified outstanding donations.

Critics are now adding their voice to previous outcry over the ever burgeoning budget for presidential gifts because of the current situation in ISO.

Because of how sensitive the matter is and the secretive nature of these intelligence bodies, none of the officials we talked to was willing to be quoted. Efforts to reach ISO Director General, Brig. Ronnie Balya for a comment were also futile as his known numbers could not go throw. We were informed by his handlers that he was out of the country. A source who is knowledgeable about the dealings of the intelligence body, however, intimated that ISO’s funds had not been released.

Efforts to reach Keith Muhakanizi, the Secretary to the Treasury were also futile as he didn’t return our calls. But Kenneth Mugambe, the Director Budget, rubbished claims that the funds had not been released.

“Whenever we make releases, they are published in newspapers including The Independent,” Mugambe said, “You check those releases and see if we haven’t released the money. We have already released the second quarter.”

According to the releases, State House and Office of the President, where ISO funds are released, have received over 50 percent of their budget. ESO has also received about 50 percent of its budget. ISO is not indicated anywhere.

But many are wondering how such a critical intelligence body can be starved of funds especially given the lingering security threats like terrorism that Uganda faces.

At their prime, mainstream intelligence bodies like ISO played a critical role in averting security disasters. In the 90s, they nipped in the bud a number of planned attacks including one on the parliament and the American embassy and brought an end to grenade explosions in omnibuses and buses by infiltrating the cells of elements behind these attacks.

2 comments

  1. WoW….. wow….. – the level of incompetence exhibited by this government is astounding…. – It will take a huge effort to extricate Uganda from the mess it is in, after Museveni is gone.

  2. There is order in chaos. Order may not necessarily manifest as organization, at least not in the business of national security. Intelligence organs are set up to function amidst and against chaos. There can therefore not be an organized way to operate in chaos.

    These bodies seem to serve their purpose. The challenge they face is post-regime career aspirations. Loyalties seem to individuals rather than to the state. The persons that made careers out of building our intelligence organizations have either fallen out with the regime or are themselves targets of espionage. It would be self-defeating to therefore continue relying on the apparatus they set up. Gen Sejusa, Gen Tumukunde, JPAM, etc have at one time or the other been on the wrong side of the state or perceived as enemies of state. Per their background, its only casual to assume they still rely on the same apparatus for their overt or covert activities.

    Obviously, the two organizations that are growing and supplementing each other are Police and SFC. I would like to believe that SFC shoulders a massive responsibility on military, domestic and international intelligence. It is not without reason that they have grown into an autonomous arm within the armed forces, to the point they are perceived to handle the most sensitive aspects of the armed forces.

    Thanks to overt political actors like Dr Besigye and official opposition political parties, domestic threats have taken on a predictive pattern and are thus containable. Domestic threats are largely political in nature and designed around publicly pronounced objectives of dismantling the regime. Their methodologies have also been announced as defiance and political participation in elections. It has thus been possible to contain them with actions of Police. In fact, one could say they are largely responsible for the growth of mandate of police. The only regrettable occurrence arising out of this arrangement is that regime politicians have not risen to the task of thwarting political threats. However, both the guerilla nature of the regime and its core opponents perhaps generate locus for dimensions of subversion that necessitate a militant police with core intelligence capabilities.

    It is the covert political actors that cause anxiety because resources, focus and personnel have been diverted to overt political actors. The unexplained assassinations in the city and country against both religious and political targets would only justify anxiety if we forgot that there is order in chaos and that this chaos could be a mere manifestation of threat elimination. Without insinuation, though desirous of avoiding the assumption that there is an unseen gap in intelligence, it would be my calculated guess that replacing the likes of ISO with the likes of SFC also comes at a cost in methods of operation. The former may have been trained in tracking and apprehension for justice while the latter might have been trained for justice by radical displacement; hence the seeming chaos / body count. It would be acceptable to classify this as subjective conjecture!

    These traditional intelligence bodies have simply been starved of access for the simple reason that counter-intelligence may have reached the conclusion that they either gather intelligence and disseminate to otherwise non-designated persons, or could be used to funnel disinformation to those prior in their command but now classified as threats to the hold of power, yet still relying on the traditional intelligence bodies for information. Starving them of access is to thus deny opponents access, while not disbanding them is to maintain a monitoring capability over their personnel in as far as collusion with opponents. If they were totally not required, as with defunct SIB which was said to be disseminating to non-designated persons, they would have likewise been disbanded.

    A regime that has survived for 30 years has not done so against the backdrop of disorganization but rather flexible interlopes among its strengths and radical displacement of its weaknesses. Perhaps those that yearn for functionality of traditional bodies are those most starved of access from the services they provided – now inaccessible from the new bases of Police and SFC whose loyalty may be the last in question. For opponents and anti-regime protagonists, a blunder would be to assume that the chaos denotes disorganization and loss of control. Such a blunder in psycho-analysis is probably what causes fatal mistakes that lead to the kind of radical displacement that gives rise to the chaos / body count.

    This is the advantage or disadvantage of the overt political players as they normalise chaos to appear as political drama, and this then allows aggravated levels of chaos to go unchecked – this unchecked chaos can be seen in the political drama that flourishes alongside terrifying chaos that manifests either as gun violence and assassinations, or national tragedies arising out of conflict with the regime; with high death tolls. Whether they are then part of the superstructure or mere *useful idiots* (Russian analogy for gullible unwitting simple players in a larger sophisticated game), or whether it serves their purpose of retaining visibility and thus relevance to the current and future political dispensation, are all subjective!

    What is sure is that the lakuna in the traditional bodies now starved of access has only been contained by continually engaging the threats in their own land. Keeping the radical extremists busy in the likes of Somalia, Sudan and CAR has created ample capacity for the likes of SFC to keep track of both local collaborators and those that move within borders to strike at the homeland. There would be no need of ESO per-say in the absence of a volatile diaspora group presenting a threat to the hold of power. The diaspora is either emotionally drawn to the overt political drama actors or filled with *reserve commanders* who appear to have fallen out with the regime and thus act as magnates for the radical types; for whom monitoring becomes easy. Whether the reserve commanders are also part of the superstructure or *useful idiots* is also subjective. A third alternative of *passive actors* may also apply to them but would not call for expansion of the likes of ESO.

    The threat to the regime both domestic and globally appears narrowed against the office of the President and the survival of the regime; all political in nature. It is covert players that run and operate in shadows for whom no outfit can account for their containment. A calculated guess would be that they lay in wait for post-regime action or are actively engaged in laying the ground for post-regime scenarios. What is true is that the order in chaos has been held together by the person and office of the founder. In absence of one and the same, only disorganization of biblical proportions will welcome any dawn. It is for that that we the grass cannot afford prayers of comfort or expectations of relief. It will be much worse before it gets any better for our lot; at which point, worse, like chaos, be have been normalized too.

    That fellow countrymen, is the world of foolery – one in which the wise like to act foolish. Remember that fools cannot engage in foolery for they lack both the wit and sadism to master foolery. Foolery is an art and science for the deviously wise!

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