It is very possible that security minister Gen. Elly Tumwine means well when he appears before lawmakers and sings for them one or two patriotic songs, before reminding them about the ultimate sacrifice his generation paid to liberate Uganda.
However, not all lawmakers consider Tumwine’s conduct innocuous, following a decision on Wednesday to have the decorated bush war combatant censured over the alleged condescending treatment of the legislature.
While adopting a report from the human rights committee about alleged torture in ungazetted places of detention euphemistically labeled ‘Safe Houses’, the House acceded to a motion by Muwanga Kivumbi and Mbwatekamwa Gaffa to have Tumwine censured over obstructing lawmakers during the conduct of their duties.
In the report presented by committee chairperson Nantume Egunyu, the MPs recommended that Tumwine be held accountable for obstructing them in the conduct of investigations. However, the committee had not explicitly called for Tumwine’s neck. The committee also recommended the immediate closure of all safe houses.
“When will Parliament take a stand and declare that enough is enough? Tumwine was very arrogant while meeting MPs and he continues to be contemptuous towards this House. I propose that we amend the resolutions to have him censured,” Gaffa said.
MPs Barnabas Tinkasiimire, Patrick Nsamba, Allan Ssewanyana, Elijah Okupa, and Roland Kaginda, too, made a case for Tumwine’s censure over his decision to stop Internal Security Organis0ation (ISO) director Col Kaka Bagyenda from meeting the committee.
“Let us censure this man to show him that this House adheres to constitutionalism. We are not jokers,” Tinkasiimire said.
The investigations were ordered late last year by the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, after MPs Latif Sebaggala and Kassiano Wadri raised a red flag over alleged horrendous torture taking place in safe houses at Lwamayuba and in Kyengera.
When lawmakers decided to ascertain the veracity of Sebaggala and Wadri’s allegations by visiting the suspected safe houses in September last year, they were denied access by soldiers, who spoke to them in a condescending tone.
At Kyengera, soldiers manning the gate told Egunyu and her team how they did not know Parliament and only took orders from the “big man” — Bagyenda. In his interface with the committee, Tumwine, although conceding to the existence of safe houses, stridently pushed back against allegations of the facilities being used as torture chambers.
Safe houses, according to Tumwine, are necessary for coordinating intelligence, briefing, and debriefing of security assets and protection of violent criminals who turn into state witnesses. However, he explicitly told MPs that they would be denied access to safe houses if deemed necessary.
In August last year, Tumwine riled lawmakers sitting on the disciplinary committee when he reminded them of the painful sacrifice they made to usher in the peace and democracy that some of them take for granted.
Tumwine had been dragged to the committee to answer allegations of contempt of Parliament by Bukonzo West MP Atkins Katusabe, as well as an alleged attack on veteran lawmaker Cecilia Ogwal.
According to Parliament’s rules of procedure, the clerk to Parliament is expected to pin the notice of censure and particulars supporting the same on the members’ notice board three days after receiving it.
At the same time, a list of all members is deposited at the Sergeant at Arms for 10 days to sign. The last minister to be censured was Jim Muhwezi in 1998 over abuse of office. Tumwine was not in the House and attempts to get a comment from him were futile.