As delegates arrived at the weekend for Monday’s ruling NRM delegates’ conference, police received orders to set up a standby force to secure the venue, Namboole stadium and the country.
The party also booked eight hospitals around Kampala to handle any medical emergencies from the conference. NRM’s deputy spokesman, Ofwono Opondo, told Sadab Kitatta Kaaya that the security operation was meant to scuttle any possible attacks from anti-establishment elements.
Does NRM have to ask for a special police force to secure its delegates’ meeting?
When you have 15,000 people in Namboole, if you are a good manager, you make a security threat assessment and build scenarios. Take for example, we are transporting delegates in buses from [all over the country], somebody could actually stage an ambush. So, we have asked police to set up highway patrol alerts in major risk areas. Police know the major risk areas on the highways.
Typically in Kampala, you expect ordinary criminals to be active on such a day to snatch bags [and] adulterate food and drinks because they know these delegates have come and have been paid some money. If there are delegates in Kireka, you’ve seen them [in a group of] about 100 going to a joint to have a drink, and you know they have money, you can compromise the bar owner, and adulterate their drinks.
They get drugged and you are able to take their possessions. Therefore, we are saying, in areas we have marked where delegates are going to stay we have a list of hotels… we have asked police to [increase] their patrols.
Potentially we could also have cases of NRM mobilisers who [want to force their way into Namboole], but this meeting is for delegates. Even [inside] Namboole, like [it was in 2010] when some delegates actually blocked Museveni’s car saying Mzee naffe twagala sente [we also want some money].
If you have issues with [Museveni], you want [him to give you money for] Christmas, Namboole is not the place for you to ask for such. Let the chairman go for the meeting, and find him elsewhere.
Even within Namboole, we can have people disagreeing either [over food], or supposing the scenario turns violent in which case, people are throwing bottles and chairs. So, we need police and the police will be available within Namboole.
Supposing people actually fight, last time NRM youths fought [during their elections] we had to call [police] to eject them. You can have intolerant delegates [who would want to fail some people to speak]. So, as a good manager, you build scenarios.
Who made this security threat assessment for you?
Kitatta, do you doubt NRM people on security issues? You know NRM has committees the committee headed by Jim Muhwezi is in charge of security and accreditation. And if you look at the people there, they are all people with a security background. But nothing prevents us from asking police [and] ISO to give us a general assessment.
For example, we have asked police and [other] intelligence agencies to give us information about Al-shabab, ADF. Road accidents are one of the biggest security threats. You may think it is an ordinary road accident and it turns out to be like [city businessman] Kasiwukira’s.
Somebody is driving and runs into delegates at Kireka how do you deal with that if you don’t have ambulances on standby? If you have not asked [hospitals] to make reservations [for such eventualities?] That is why we have [Dr Chris] Baryomunsi and [Dr Kenneth] Omona there. They have asked [about] eight hospitals around Kampala to make reservations for emergencies. Suppose out of pressure [from the delegates] a building or the platform collapses, or if a storm comes and blows away the tents, what do you do?
Isn’t the party being paranoid?
No, we are only good managers. We don’t bring 10,000 delegates to Namboole, add security, service providers and staff. We are talking about 15,000 people.
Recently Minister Asuman Kiyingi used social media to accuse Jim Muhwezi of making threats to block certain delegates…
First of all, Asuman Kiyingi is not a delegate, to the best of my knowledge. I haven’t seen his social media post but you cannot avoid false propaganda. For example, you have heard people saying that they are going to nominate [former premier Amama] Mbabazi, but this conference has nothing to do with nomination and elections.
That is diversion. Two, you have heard people who are saying that this conference is for purging Mbabazi, [others] have said, the meeting has been postponed. I was in Arua four days ago, they have a local newspaper linking [the state minister for Investment, Gabriel] Ajedra and Mbabazi. I think they have their local political rivalries there. You cannot prevent that kind of false propaganda. What we are doing all the time is to explain that this meeting is not about Mbabazi.
Muhwezi has no role whatsoever on the list he has no physical capacity to know the delegates. He can’t, because he is not the one who is doing the ticking. He can’t issue [a directive] that Mbabazi or Kiyingi don’t come to Namboole. There are counter measures.
Supposing you have local conflicts, like there is a local conflict in Arua, Lwengo, Tororo and Lira. In Lira, the general secretary and the chairman don’t agree. They support different rivals. One supports Sam Engola [state minister for Housing] and another supports Rebecca Otengo [state minister for Northern Uganda]. The general secretary who supports Otengo is a youth and is part of the Omodo-Omodo [group of pro-Mbabazi youths].
And when the chairman was sending the list for Lira, he put a star [on the general secretary’s name] unknown to him that the general secretary would have access to this list, and when he [secretary] found a star on his name, they went and boxed each other.
In Tororo, the case is Teso against the Jopadhola. The Teso people in [Geoffrey] Ekanya’s constituency want to do their parallel line, because they don’t believe that the Yer Ofwonos can lead them. In Lwengo, you have this Muslim man [Muyanja Mbabaali] against the others. We at the national level are aware of those conflicts.
We also know that some of the [district] chairpersons and administrative secretaries were replacing some of the dead delegates with people who would share allowances with them. In fact that is what inflated the delegates’ list last time.
It will be unfortunate if Kiyingi posted that and even held out. To the best of my knowledge, Kiyingi is not a delegate because he cannot come as an MP because he is not NRM. Maybe if he is holding a position as the district executive or chairman of a sub-county in which case he would come as a delegate.
There is talk that some delegates will be out to promote Amama Mbabazi’s presidential ambition. I am talking about delegates coming to Namboole with T-shirts and posters promoting Mbabazi. Are they free to do so since this is a political activity?
First of all, that is why accreditation is there. That is why the people doing security clearance at the entrance check [people’s] bags and luggage. If someone comes dressed [normally] and in his or her bag, we find T-shirts or posters of Basajjabalaba or Mbabazi, a good security person should smell a rat and question why?
Or they may not even [carry T-shirts or posters] but they may erupt in heckling, [because] they don’t want a person to give a contrary view or if someone rises up to move an amendment that the secretary general be appointed and some people stand and begin shouting no, no, no… and even begin throwing chairs.
All those are threat assessments we have made. Whether they will be actualized will depend on our readiness to pre-empt them. Like al-Shabab is here, they plan everyday but nothing has come to pass. Why? Because we mute them in the cells, and right now, we are able to detect any troublesome delegate. So, security should be able to deal with such a delegate without creating a scene.
Are you trying to say there are some delegates that have been blacklisted?
Anybody with a potential disruptive plan will be curtailed that is the term we use in security. Anybody with potential disruptive violent behaviour or plan will be curtailed. They can be denied entry those things can be removed or can be politically overwhelmed.
For example, you have seen SFC [Special Forces Command], if they notice a person who heckles most, they form a ring around you, so you just discover you are surrounded by people not known to you. If you try [to do something disruptive], they simply tell you that you can’t do such a thing here.
That is how we dealt with Besigye and Lukwago in Rukungiri [during the 2013 Independence day celebrations]. That is why even Museveni will have a tag like the rest of us. That is the essence of an effective security posture you suspect everybody, but don’t be alarmist. For example, if there are the so-called pro-Mbabazi people: we don’t have to be alarmist, [but] if they come, they will be curtailed.
Source : The Observer