Gen. Aronda Nyakayirima is the Minister for Internal Affairs. Following the recent attacks in Kasese and Bundibugyo districts and the execution of Ugandans in China, Saturday Vision’s CYPRIAN MUSOKE and BRIAN MAYANJA had a chat with him.
Are the Kasese-Bundibugyo killings an indication that our internal security systems are too weak to detect coordinated crime?
What I can say is that the situation has stabilised. I condemn all those behind the killings. It is clear our country is stable, having wiped out the ADF, LRA and al Shabaab, in addition to containing terrorism during the World Cup season.
For these locally misguided youth who killed people in Kasese, the Government has undertaken to deal with them in court. No one is bigger than the law, so all of them will be dealt with. The President offered amnesty to those who surrender guns voluntarily. We can only learn more lessons in order for this not to recur.
Does it mean the Police and intelligence agencies are now reactive and not pre-emptive?
We have intelligence officers on the ground who could have done better to ensure this did not happen. We have constituted two committees. One is a Cabinet committee on gender, labour and social development that is re-examining the law relating to cultural leaders and institutions to ensure they are used for developmental activities, rather than political ones.
The committee includes myself, the Attorney General, information minister Rose Namayanja, gender minister Mary Karooro Okurut and that for the presidency Frank Tumwebaze. We also have the National Security Committee, which has been tasked with probing and making a report on its findings on the killings. Legal action is being undertaken to prosecute the perpetrators to ensure no recurrence. We ask everybody to cooperate.
Given that many Ugandans are being held in China over drug trafficking, is Uganda becoming a hub for drug trafficking?
Drug trafficking is a global challenge. The foreign affairs ministry is holding talks with the Chinese government to pardon the Ugandans who are facing execution. But I advise Ugandans not to engage in criminal acts.
The legal framework in China is tough, unlike that of other countries. For example, in Uganda, once you are arrested, you are taken to court and made to pay a fine. But in China, once convicted of drug trafficking, you have to die. Those executed in China are paying for their sins. We beefed up security at Entebbe Airport to detect drug trafficking. I am also happy with Bukedde TV for exposing those growing marijuana.
What should be done to contain the rampant insecurity in some parts of the country, which involve house break-ins and iron bar hit men?
We are expanding the community policing programme. It is already in Gulu and Fort Portal districts. But where do the iron bar hit men get the bars? Through community policing, members of the public will be sensitised in that when they see their neighbours stocking iron bars, they will get suspicious and inform the authorities. I urge Ugandans to be vigilant and alert.
There have been tourism advisories that Uganda is insecure. Are they affecting tourism?
The Kasese incidents were like an accident. It does not mean Uganda should be closed to tourists. Our national parks and other attractions are secure. We shall ensure security from north to east.
National IDs to be issued in September
Going by the long queues at national id registration centres, many people feel there is need for an extension of the exercise that is now left with less than a month. Will the project be extended?
As I have always advised, I am happy that the exercise has been taken seriously. I want to congratulate Ugandans for turning up massively. In Masindi, people were reportedly sleeping in a classroom and waking up at 5:00am to be the first in the queue. We are even working on Saturday and Sunday to cater for those who are busy during the week.
The Sunday registration at churches has also been successful in areas like Kitgum. It is those initiatives that will take us up to the end of the exercise. I am happy the message from political religious and cultural leaders sank in. Our people now know that the process is extraordinary and important for the future of our country. I salute all the leaders. We have come a long way. We should now be at above 50% registration.
When should we expect to get the identification cards?
September is still set aside for ID issuance. That is another area of management. We have a process and time frame. Cards will soon be printed and given out, we will work hard to complete registration in the planned time and issue IDs at sub-counties by September. Is it easy? No, we knew it would be tough because the majority of our population is illiterate.
Since April, we have learnt how to handle things through helping the illiterate to register. Our officers have also gained experience in how to operate the gadgets faster. They are now reporting fewer problems in operating the kits. I am sure we will meet the deadline.
How many people have so far registered?
In Kampala, it was estimated at 1.4 million, but we are yet to establish the exact figures by division.
There are complaints that foreigners are given work permits to invest, but end up doing petty trade.
This is the purpose of issuing IDs to Ugandan nationals. We want to do away with hand-written documents. We plan to get electronic work permits, which are machine readable, after automating the immigration process. But in order not to delay investors, we have been requiring them to come here, get a visa, express their interest to work here, go to the Uganda Investments Authority and attain documents which they bring to immigration to get work permits. But still, many have been dodging or reneging on it.
Some say they are timber processors, but end up in petty trade. Several have been deported, while others are pending deportation. This will be alleviated by computerising the documentation process. The situation has not been helped by a thin immigration department of 300 staff. We are negotiating with the finance ministry to have the department expanded under the Public- Private Partnership initiative to come up with electronic passports.
Why is the ministry not releasing the report on the probe into the rot in the immigration department? Is it because bigshots are implicated?
When the time comes, when all necessary levels have been briefed, the report shall be made public. No one in this Government is untouchable, not even the President.