Mengo, govt quarrel over Kabaka’s guards

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    Mengo, govt quarrel over Kabaka’s guards
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    Uncomfortable: UPDF soldiers trying to keep guard of the Kabaka

    The mutual suspicion between Buganda and Uganda is threatening to flare up again – this time over a key issue of who is handed a gun to guard Kabaka Ronald Mutebi II.

    Matters were last week threatening to come to a head, with the Ugandan state security machinery being accused of spying on the Kabaka.

    The Observer has learnt that the problem started when the UPDF decided to change the Kabaka’s guards – sending him people who are not Baganda and who were not vetted by a council of Baganda elders (Abataka) as agreed nearly 12 years ago.

    That April 2002 understanding came after Kabaka Muwenda Mutebi II expressed discomfort with the UPDF guards assigned to him.

    Sources said the Kabaka and the president then agreed to recruit Baganda youths, vetted by kingdom elders, into what came to be known as the Kabaka Protection Unit (KPU).

    The recruits, it was agreed, would be trained by the UPDF but would later on be transferred to the Uganda Police force. Museveni then directed the ministry of Internal Affairs to enforce the agreement. Stephen Kagoda, then permanent secretary in the ministry of Internal Affairs wrote to Katikkiro Joseph Mulwanyammuli Ssemwogerere, outlining how the arrangement would work.

    “Having been trained by the army, those providing protection for [the Kabaka] will be supervised under the [UPDF] Act,” Kagoda’s letter read.

    The army would give the guards uniforms, salaries and allowances, as well as supervising their discipline. The kingdom would give them a monthly top-up of Shs 250,000.

    “At a later date, the protection personnel will be transferred to the Uganda Police Force when [it] will be ready to receive them,” the April 29, 2002 letter reads further.

    However, recent developments show that the government is slowly drifting away from that undertaking, handling the deployments directly, without consulting the elders.

    In 2009, the UPDF deployed Capt Isaac Ssebunya. After a few months, Ssebunya found the Kabaka guards wanting, and recommended further training.

    This was roundly rejected by the Kabaka’s officials. Ssebunya was recalled, and replaced by Capt Stephen Kisitu Mivule (RIP), one of the victims of the October 2012 Bulange fire attack.

    Kisitu was replaced later by Lt Musaazi Lutwama, whom some kingdom loyalists view with suspicion given the changes he is trying to make in the Kabaka’s security detail.

    New deployments
    But Musaazi found the Kabaka’s guards were “too old and not so good” for the job that he recommended an injection of “new blood.”

    In June last year, UPDF deployed 17 soldiers to the KPU and 17 of the original unit personnel were sacked.
    Six of the sacked guards returned to their jobs recently after the Kabaka’s intervention.

    “When he [Kabaka] learnt about their sacking, he asked for an explanation but was not convinced; so, he [demanded] for their return,” a source close to the palace told us.

    Meanwhile, the Kabaka asked Maj Ssenkoma, a retired army officer, to secretly investigate the 17 new UPDF additions to KPU. By the time of his death late last year, Ssenkoma had informed the Kabaka that 15 of the 17 had Kiganda names, but their lineage could not be traced to any of the Baganda clans, a well-placed kingdom source said.

    More deployments were made last week. Six soldiers joined on January 15 and another six were sent a day later, making a total of 29 direct UPDF deployments, adding to the 28-man original KPU squad.

    More worrisome to kingdom loyalists is that the Kabaka cannot assign his guards duties anymore lest they risk disciplinary action.

    “The commanding officer [Musaazi] has issued five orders to soldiers that they have to strictly adhere to. For example, they can’t speak to the Kabaka in confidence anymore, because Musaazi has told them that whoever the Kabaka speaks to in confidence, must reveal to him [Musaazi] details of their discussions,” the source said.

    The soldiers, the source told us, are now being assigned more spying roles on the Kabaka. For instance, if the Kabaka is on his kingdom tours and visits anyone not on the official list, the head of his security detail on that particular journey has to write a report to the commandant.

    “Recently, the Kabaka tasked two soldiers to compile a report for him on the Kasokoso land wrangle [between National Housing and Construction Company and locals] but Musaazi stopped them until they accepted to give him a copy. It is now policy that for any soldier to write a report to the Kabaka, Musaazi must see it first,” the source told us.

    Musaazi now also gives the nod of approval for the Kabaka’s cars to move in or out of the palace, a new development Mengo views as intrusion on the Kabaka’s privacy. Our source spoke of a recent incident in which a palace staff was briefly detained by the UPDF guards for driving out of the palace without clearance.

    We have also been told that the UPDF has blocked the cultural guards (Abambowa) from getting close to the Kabaka. For cultural purposes, one or two cultural guards are allowed on the Kabaka’s security detail. The core of the Kabaka’s original guards has been assigned new roles as gatekeepers in the new changes.

    While the Bambowa have the cultural role of guarding the Kabaka, the new directives keep them at least five metres away from wherever a UPDF guard is stationed. Security at Kabaka’s functions has been taken over by JATT (Joint Anti-Terrorism Taskforce).

    Besides JATT, there are also reports of armed men in suits at Kabaka’s functions. When some officials at Mengo sought an explanation from the commandant, they were told not to mind the “men in suits” because they were there for the good of the Kabaka.

    “Musaazi claims that there are fears that terrorists may target the Kabaka to discredit the government but it remains unclear why the kingdom is not formally informed of their presence,” said the source.

    As the new security measures took effect, Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga directed the Bangawa (Baganda Ngabo Workers Association), who had formed a volunteer security force for the Kabaka, culturally known as Kyayera mbuga, to keep away from Kabaka’s functions.

    The group’s leaders, however, sought an audience with the Kabaka at Banda palace and pleaded their case.
    The Kabaka later sent his younger brother Prince David Kintu Wasajja to the Bangawa members. At a meeting at Bulange, the prince asked them to resume their duties.

    The old guards accuse the new additions of having sinister motives against the Kabaka.

    “Tetumanyi gyemwava, mulina kigendererwa ki ku Kabaka waffe? Mwagala kumwezza?” Godwin Kalungi, one of the old guards reportedly told the new guards in one of the burst-ups, literally implying, “We don’t know where you came from. What is your interest in our Kabaka?”

    Kalungi at the time was the ADC (aide de camp) to Mayiga. Early this month, Kalungi accompanied Mayiga to a wedding party at Speke Resort Munyonyo. Like other guests at the party, Kalungi ate and drank. He was later arrested by his colleagues and detained in Bombo for drinking on duty.

    Katikkiro Mayiga himself has had his security beefed up, with seven UPDF guards headed by Sgt Siraj Ssematimba.

    Mayiga didn’t return our phone calls at the weekend, while kingdom spokesman Denis Ssengendo Walusimbi only promised to crosscheck our information and get back to us.

    Very important
    The director of Police Operations Grace Turyagumanawe said the JATT deployment on Kabaka’s security detail is part of the new protocol protecting all VIP functions.

    “We cover all VIP functions with JATT and Counter terrorism police, in fact all major functions, important centres like places of worship, shopping malls have to be covered by a mixture of security groups,” Turyagumanawe told The Observer in a weekend interview.

    “If we go to these smaller places, how do you expect us to ignore a big function attended by the Kabaka? He is a VIP, it is a priority to have his functions covered like any other VIP function,” he added.

    He, however, rules out claims that there were terror threats against the Kabaka.

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