July 12, 2018 / 11:32 AM / 7 days ago

Ugandan lawmakers to get sharpshooters and armoured cars for security

KAMPALA (Reuters) - President Yoweri Museveni has approved increased security spending for Uganda’s 456 members of parliament - including on sharpshooters and armoured escort vehicles - after a ruling party lawmaker was shot dead.

FILE PHOTO: Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni attends the 30th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and the Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia January 28, 2018. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri

Critics said the spending was wasteful and failed to address security concerns of normal citizens who fear rampant crime in a country marked by unsolved murders, waves of kidnappings for ransom, burglaries and robberies.

In a letter to the finance minister seen by Reuters on Thursday, Museveni said the decision to boost security was taken after a meeting with members of parliament in which incidents of “criminality and terrorism” were discussed.

“Members of parliament ... have been singled out for intimidation and possibly attack. I have, therefore, decided to protect the members of parliament ... since they are being singled out,” he said.

The killing of a ruling party lawmaker and his bodyguard on June 8 follows lethal attacks on Muslim leaders, a public prosecutor and a senior police officer. There have been no arrests in any of the cases.

Museveni said lawmakers would now be accompanied by military sharp-shooters and ordered the finance ministry to purchase armoured pick-up trucks to use as escort vehicles.

Rights groups and the opposition accuse the government of wasteful spending and failing to reign in corruption.

In the 2018/19 (July-June) financial year, the government introduced new taxes and hiked existing ones, including a new levy on accessing social media sites.

“Ordinary Ugandans are being taxed heavily to meet wasteful expenditure of politicians,” said Cissy Kagaba, executive director of Anti Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU).

“Security should be guaranteed for every Ugandan not for a few selected people ... it’s pathetic and annoying,” she said.

Parliament spokesman Chris Obore denied the spending was wasteful, describing it as a “short term measure” to meet credible threats.

In power since 1986, Museveni, 73, is expected to stand for re-election in 2021 after parliament, controlled by his ruling party, scrapped an age cap in Uganda’s constitution last year.

The amendment, which sparked protests countrywide and a fistfight in parliament, removed a bar on anyone older than 75 running for president.

Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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