400 MPs to get ar­moured ve­hi­cles

Cape Times - - WORLD NEWS -

KAM­PALA: Uganda is de­ploy­ing mil­i­tary es­corts and buy­ing ar­moured trucks for each of its more than 400 law­mak­ers while blam­ing grow­ing inse­cu­rity, but crit­ics have blasted the de­ci­sion as too ex­pen­sive for a poor coun­try that has long been con­sid­ered one of Africa’s more sta­ble na­tions.

Long­time Pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni is­sued the di­rec­tive in a June29 let­ter to the fi­nance min­is­ter that cites “shal­low criminality and ter­ror­ism” in re­cent years.

Some law­mak­ers have cited threats since pass­ing a bill in De­cem­ber that opened the door for 73-year-old Mu­sev­eni to pos­si­bly rule into the 2030s. The bill was op­posed by many Ugan­dans, and is be­ing chal­lenged in court.

Kizza Be­si­gye, Uganda’s most prom­i­nent op­po­si­tion leader, said on Twit­ter that law­mak­ers felt the need to tighten their se­cu­rity “be­cause they were used” by Mu­sev­eni in his ef­forts to pro­long his rule.

It was not im­me­di­ately clear how much the new se­cu­rity mea­sures would cost. Most law­mak­ers are with the rul­ing party.

One rul­ing party law­maker, Ibrahim Abiriga, was shot dead by un­known gun­men near the cap­i­tal, Kam­pala, last month. It was one of sev­eral gun at­tacks in the coun­try since 2015, with vic­tims in­clud­ing a pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor, a po­lice spokesper­son and sev­eral Mus­lim preach­ers.

Mu­sev­eni, a key US se­cu­rity ally, took power by force in 1986 and has since won elec­tions four times. The last vote, in 2016, was marred by al­le­ga­tions of fraud.

Although Mu­sev­eni has cam­paigned on his strong se­cu­rity record over the years, some worry that those gains are be­ing de­pleted as he stays longer in power.

Uganda was slid­ing slowly into cri­sis, the In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group re­ported late last year as law­mak­ers pre­pared to pass the bill that re­moved a pres­i­den­tial age limit from the con­sti­tu­tion. It had pre­vented any­one older than 75 from hold­ing of­fice.

“Uganda is in ur­gent need of po­lit­i­cal and ad­min­is­tra­tive re­form to pre­vent a slide to­ward an in­creas­ingly dys­func­tional, cor­rupt and in­se­cure sys­tem,” the think tank said. The gov­ern­ment, which de­pends heav­ily on ex­ter­nal bor­row­ing, has been strug­gling to raise do­mes­tic rev­enue.

New taxes passed last month in­clude a daily levy on the use of so­cial me­dia that has sparked anger and calls for na­tion­wide protests. – AP

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