Members of parliament on the Defence and Internal Affairs committee have tasked officials from Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) to justify the on-going recruitment of 24,000 Local Defense Unit (LDU) personnel.
The MPs questioned why LDUs are being recruited and yet the president announced that crime preventers were part of the UPDF reserve force.
Appearing before the Defence Committee on Wednesday led by the state minister for Defence Sam Engola, UPDF officials denied knowledge of the 12 million crime preventers.
This was after MPs Muhammed Muwanga Kivumbi representing Butambala county, Lwemiyaga county MP Theodore Ssekikubo and the committee chairperson Doreen Amule raised concern over the on-going recruitment of LDUs by the UPDF.
"So what happens between the LDUs and the currently laid off crime preventers that [have] been officially handed over to UPDF to integrate them into the security system? What is the essence of having LDU recruited and yet we have these locals that are still in police?" Amule asked.
The deputy Chief of Defence Forces (CDF), Lt. Gen Wilson Mbadi told the MPs that he has no idea about the 12 million crime preventers. He, however, said that the army is aware of only 260 coordinators of crime preventers who he said are currently undergoing training at the National Leadership Institute (NALI) in Kyankwanzi.
"When you look at the criteria of selection of the target groups that we’re recruiting into the LDUs, crime preventers are part of them. First of all, we didn’t have their list, so we had to develop a mechanism of getting their leadership…These crime preventers, they were talking about 5 million but we haven’t seen them…at the moment we’re engaging them [leaders] in training in Kyankwanzi so that we know what kind of people we’re dealing with." Mbadi said.
Mbadi further explained that the LDU recruitment is part of the elaborate counter security measures being put in place as announced by the president.
"We have to put stop-gap measures and the LDU system is part of the stop-gap measures. And in law when the reason, situation for which we recruited them is no longer existing, then we’re at liberty to put them back in. That is why recruiting from their own areas and operating from their own areas as foundation security security becomes easier to disengage them once we no longer require them." Mbadi added.
Ssekikubo, questioned the UPDF if there is proper assessment of the recruitment and arming of the LDU with guns to move around the city. However, Mbadi told the committee that the recruitment of LDUs was discussed in the National Security Council as the best option.
"But we also lay off soldiers; it doesn't mean that at the stage of retiring, we should not. We will not fear to retire people because they have been handling guns or that when they go out there, they are likely to turn into criminals. If they turn into criminals, they will be followed by security agencies," said Mbadi.
In March, while meeting a group of crime preventers at Lugogo indoor stadium in Kampala, President Museveni announced that the crime preventers who were initially under police will be integrated into the UPDF.
For long, crime preventers had been seen as former police chief Kale Kayihura project, whose first recruitment kicked off in 2013 under their umbrella body, National Crime Preventers Forum (NCPF). The objective of the crime preventers was to promote community policing.
But their existence raised many questions from the public on their legal existence, with sections of the public accusing crime preventers of engaging in criminal acts, instead of crime prevention.