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SFC, Police disagree on parliament raid

The Special Forces Command didn’t deploy the plain clothes officers who forcibly dragged opposition MPs out of Parliament last week, an officer attached to the specialised military unit, which protects the president and his family, has said.

As of Monday, official sources at the Special Forces Command (SFC) were maintaining that they did not have anything to do with this shocking operation as a unit.

Sergeant-At-Arms seen in the background trying to refrain plain-clothed security officers from accessing the House

“It’s a misconception by the public. We didn’t deploy any of our officers in or anywhere near the parliament last week. We have SFCs (sic) attached to police and under the direct command of the Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura. So, it was the IGP’s appreciation to deploy them in parliament,” SFC spokesman Capt Jimmy Denis Omara, told The Observer on Monday.

Capt Omara said SFC personnel under Kayihura are like police officers attached to State House. The police chief has admitted to inviting sister agencies to assist him execute the raid, which he planned.

Omara, however, declined to say what his unit’s commanding officer, Col Don Nabasa, was doing at parliament before the unprecedented assault by these men dressed in suits.

The way the men viciously attacked MPs has attracted widespread condemnation. Parallels have also been drawn between last Wednesday’s invasion and the 1966-67 crisis in which the army surrounded parliament and intimidated MPs into rubber-stamping the ‘pigeon-hole constitution’ entrenching Apollo Milton Obote in power, and leading to the bloody upheavals, which have characterized Uganda’s politics since then.

Police spokesman Asan Kasingye on Monday told The Observer that no SFC officers are attached to the IGP.

“On that day, the IGP got information that there were going to be terror activities; chaos and noise in parliament. And some people were intending to burn parliament,” he said.

“That is why the IGP gave instructions to parliamentary police, which worked together with other sister security agencies that were not armed and picked MPs on orders of the speaker to leave the house,” he said.

Kasingye then identified the sister security agencies as regular army, SFC, military police and others. The onslaught by these security agencies took place in the heat of protests against ruling party MP, Raphael Magyezi’s (Igara West), motion to amend Article 102(b) of the constitution.

If amended, this will remove presidential age limits, making it possible for President Museveni to rule Uganda for life after clocking 77 in 2021, which are two years more than the existing 75-year cap.

It all started as Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga suspended 25 MPs for allegedly breaching house rules a day earlier.

Their suspension followed a fight in the chamber sparked by claims that junior Water minister Ronald Kibuule had smuggled a gun inside parliament and threatened Kira municipality MP Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda.

Shadow Minister for Internal Affairs Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi has since said Kayihura and Nabasa were filmed walking into parliament from the neighbouring Office of the Prime Minister building.

He said the SFC soldiers were also caught on video walking in single file into parliament’s public gallery, wearing suits.

Interviewed for a comment, like his police colleague, Brig Richard Karemire, the UPDF spokesman, appeared to struggle to explain the incident. He first said Kayihura was in overall charge of the force at the parliament last Wednesday.

The brigadier then said that Nabasa was at the parliament because it’s within his mandate to deploy officers around parliament with key installations around there, including offices of the president, vice president, prime minister and others.

“If he [Nabaasa] was seen there in parliament on Wednesday, it was not out of the norm for him to be there, since he works near parliament and checks on officers deployed around parliament every day. Even if you go there now, you can find him there,” Karemire said.

Internal Affairs state minister Kania Obiga also talked in round-about fashion, saying if the police, UPDF or SFC deny deploying SFC personnel at parliament, it means they were not there.

“However, on Wednesday, I wasn’t in parliament and I can’t tell exactly whether they were SFC or UPDF in parliament. On Tuesday, I also entered the parliament late; so, I don’t know,” he said.

zurah@observer.ug