KAMPALA. President Museveni has taken charge of a top monthly security meeting and appointed members to fully constitute it for the first time since 2000, Saturday Monitor has learnt.
The President’s move comes hot on the heels of the grim killing of former police spokesperson Andrew Felix Kaweesi, who was gunned down on March 17 together with his driver and bodyguard in a Kampala city suburb.
The National Security Council, an advisory body to the President on all matters relating to national security, which, according to the National Security Council Act 2000, is supposed to be chaired by the President and in his absence the vice president, has so far met at least thrice since March.
Before Kaweesi’s killing on March 17, the minister of Internal Affairs chaired the Council with the President only attending on an ‘as and when’ basis. But even then, the Council was not fully constituted.
Article 219 of the Constitution states: “There shall be a National Security Council which shall consist of the President as chairperson and such other members as Parliament may determine.”
Five years after the 1995 Constitution was promulgated, in 2000, Parliament passed the National Security Council Act which gave operative effect to Article 219 of the Constitution, but the President, who is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, had neither fully constituted the body nor taken full charge of it as chairperson.
The council, according to the law, is composed of the President as the chairperson, vice president, the ministers responsible for Internal Affairs, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Security, Defence, the Attorney General, and other members, not exceeding five, appointed by the President and approved by Parliament.
Saturday Monitor has learnt that Mr Museveni has now nominated NRM secretary general Justine Kasule Lumumba, senior presidential advisor for Special Operations, Maj Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, former army commander and current army MP Gen Elly Tumwine, and his longtime aide Maj Gen Proscovia Nalweyiso. One slot is yet to be filled among the five the President is mandated to appoint and send to Parliament for approval. The names of the other four, however, have not yet been approved by Parliament although they already sit in the Council.
Asked about the appointments and the workings of the Council, Security minister Maj Gen Tumukunde said: “Call the President and ask him.”
NRM ruling party secretary general Lumumba said: “How did you get such classified information? Matters of the National Security Council are confidential,” before hanging up.
When called back and pressed on the issue, Ms Lumumba said: “Anyway, yes; I was appointed by the President to the Council. As secretary general of the ruling party, my presence there shouldn’t shock you because the National Security Council implements what we promised our voters in the campaigns and in our manifesto but above all, I am also a keen follower of matters of national security. The law doesn’t bar the President from appointing me even as SG [secretary general] of NRM.”
The ex-officio members of the National Security Council, according to the law, are the Inspector General of Police, Army Commander (now called Chief of Defence Forces), Director General of Internal Security Organisation, Director General of External Security Organisation, director of Special Branch (now defunct), director of the Criminal Investigations Department, Chief of Military Intelligence, and Commissioner General of Prisons.
For the three times the council has sat, Saturday Monitor has learnt that Mr Museveni has personally chaired the meetings. The first time the meeting sat, a minister who attended and preferred to speak on condition of anonymity, said: “He was so furious that he said he now had to constitute and chair the Council himself because security had broken down.”
The President reportedly aimed criticism at the Inspector General of police, Gen Kale Kayihura, and CIID boss Grace Akullo over the deteriorating security situation in the country.
There have been rising cases of killings, house break-ins by gangs armed with machetes, bricks, axes, hammers and other crude weapons across the country, especially in greater Masaka sub-region, Kampala and Wakiso districts, with some of the suspected thugs pinning police officers for providing protection to the criminal gangs.
This newspaper’s investigative series on the bloodbath in Teso sub-region, titled: ‘Blood, Guns and Politics in Teso’, another minister who attended the meeting said, came up as a discussion point, with the President referring to the contents of the articles.
Only recently, security minister Lt Gen Tumukunde was dispatched by the President to Teso sub-region to, among other things, assess the situation and status of investigations into the murders.
On the day of Kaweesi’s killing, Gen Kayihura told reporters he had called his former aide at around 8am that morning and assigned him to call the press and respond to what he said was ‘alarmist reporting’ by this newspaper on security in Teso. Kaweesi would later be gunned down en route to fulfilling his boss’ assignment.
Details of the subsequent two meetings the President has held with the Council remain scanty but a Cabinet source told this reporter the issue of validation of subscriber identity module (SIM) card data and ensuring every registered phone user has their details synced to and with the national identification data base, was a recommendation of the council.
“That is why it was Gen Tumukunde who took it up alongside the IGP, including addressing the press on the matter because we assigned him to handle that matter,” a source who attended one of the three meetings, said. The deadline for the exercise has now been extended twice, with the new deadline for SIM card registration and verification set for end of August.
Section 3 of the National Security Council Act 2000 spells out functions of the National Security Council. The functions of the council shall be:
To inform and advise the President on matters relating to national security.
To coordinate and advise on policy matters relating to intelligence and security.
To review national security needs and goals.
To brief the Cabinet regularly on matters relating to national security.
To receive and act on reports from the joint intelligence committee.
To carry out any other function as Parliament may assign to the council.
The council may appoint such technical committees as it considers necessary to guide it in the performance of its functions.
Meetings of the council:
(1) The council shall meet at least once a month at such place as the President may specify.
(2) The President shall preside at any meeting of the council.
3. Without prejudice to the general effect of subsection (2), the President, in his or her absence and in the absence of the Vice President, may designate a minister to preside at a meeting of the council.
4. The quorum of the National Security Council and that of the district and sub-county security committees respectively shall be half of the total membership.