The Minister of Internal Affairs Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire has drawn wild criticism for suggesting that Ugandans should pay more taxes to help the government shore up police troop numbers to fight the rising spate of crime in the country.
Otafiire, who is the chairperson of the Police Authority, made the revelations recently during the 26th Police Council meeting at the police headquarters in Naguru.
He said, “Either you give us enough policemen or don’t complain about crime. You know we have a parliament whose size is larger than that of Britain. Did you know that our parliament is bigger than that of Britain? Britain’s economy is 200 times the size of Uganda’s economy. They have about 600 MPs, and we have about 554 (557). We can’t afford it! What is wrong with Ugandans? How can Uganda have a parliament the size of the British parliament and yet you don’t have enough policemen?”
“The other day I was at a wedding, and I told someone that I no longer go to Parliament. I used to talk for 15 minutes, and now I must compete for three minutes. Since they are so many, each MP is allocated three minutes. What can someone say in three minutes? I haven’t told you what I wanted to tell you, and I have spoken for longer than three minutes! What can someone say in three minutes?” he said.
“Where do we get the resources to support these two institutions (police and parliament)? We are sometimes forced to do things that have no meaning because others demand it. President, give us a district; if you don’t, we will not vote for you!
The man says, okay, since you want a district, what do I do? You have now created a Frankenstein state. We need enough police officers. Since you wanted districts, you are going to pay taxes to get police officers. You have a big parliament, and you want a big police force. How will you feed them with only one cow? One will suffer. So, [John Martins Okoth] Ochola [Inspector General of Police], give me your manpower requirements. I will go and talk to this wonderful parliament, and I will inform them that this is what I need,” Otafiire said.
With about 54,000 personnel, the Uganda Police Force has a poor police-to-population ratio of one police officer to 800 people. This is higher than the internationally recognized ratio of one police officer to 500 people. Uganda has recorded a spate of armed attacks on security installations and an increase in armed robberies in the past few months.
On December 9, 2022, three unknown gunmen killed two civilians and raided a police station. In July 2022, panga-toting men attacked two policemen at a roadblock in Kiwumpa village, five kilometers from Luweero town council. They stabbed the officers and stole two guns. On October 31, 2022, a group of armed assailants attacked the Busiika police post.
They shot and killed two police officers on duty, injured two others, and robbed two guns. On November 15, 2022, gunmen on a motorcycle attacked Kensington police in Kyanja. On November 17, 2022, armed men attacked soldiers at Amber Court road, adjacent to Gaddafi barracks. Sgt. Eyagu had been deployed together with L/Cpl. Norico Kibirige.
Interviewed on November 29, 2022, Margaret Muhanga, the minister of state for Primary Health Care, said, “You see, some of these security matters are not matters we are going to discuss in public. You know many police stations were attacked, and an army man was shot and killed by unknown people...Security is not going to come and explain the nitty-gritty of who is doing this. They are not abducting anybody. The prime minister gave a list of people in custody and the cases against them, with many of them arraigned in court. That abduction word is still for the gallery. The situation is not as bad.”
“How come you have not been abducted? How come I and many others are here? There’s a saying that there’s no smoke without fire. No security agency will come to your house to pick you up out of nowhere. There will be a clue about the person taking the guns from the police stations. Who is killing policemen and women? Who is doing it? Instead of supporting the government when security goes to arrest them, you want to support the culprits that have been arrested.
What are we going to do? The country cannot be run like a pigsty. We must have structures,” she said, adding, “Nobody has been kidnapped or abducted. It is a lie. They were arrested in broad daylight when everybody was watching. If you remember, some of these people [opposition] brought fake names of people who don’t exist. The government looked for them, but they didn’t exist anywhere, not even in the national IDs. They want to create an impression in the international community that the abductions are happening, but they are not there.”
Interviewed for a comment about the ministers’ statements, Muwanga Kivumbi, the shadow minister for Internal Affairs, said, “Otafiire knows who the chief abuser of these finances is. The biggest problem lies with the top leadership. Otafiire is among the beneficiaries of classified expenditure. They got over three trillion shillings in the financial year 2021/22, five trillion in 2022/23, and now want four trillion in 2023/24...”
“The likes of Otafiire are just scratching the surface of our problems. Under his watch, the UPDF has been turned into a family army. He has not done anything to address this. When Otafiire complains about the size of parliament, he is being dishonest. He is a beneficiary of a bloated parliament because if his current constituency had not been created, he would not be an MP. He has no moral authority to cry for a smaller parliament as much as Ugandans need it,” he said.
“We need a leaner and more efficient parliament. When the opposition recommended a leaner parliament, Otafiire, who at the time was a Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, didn’t take up the idea.”
Jane Nalunga, the executive director of SEATINI, a non-governmental organization (NGO) working on trade, fiscal, and development related issues, said, “Otafiire is right because we need to cut our coat according to the cloth that we have. The cost of administration in Uganda is very high. We need a smaller parliament, a smaller cabinet, etc.
However, Otafiire is also dishonest because the creation of districts seeks to serve political interests. Otafiire doesn’t have to accuse Ugandans of asking for more districts as a basis for further taxation. The assumption is that we expect our leaders to know what their citizens want and need.”
“If we don’t have the resource envelope, why should we create more districts? Why is it that when Ugandans ask for more hospitals and schools, the government goes silent? Why are they active when Ugandans ask for districts? Our administration is bloated and unnecessary. You can’t put the entire burden on the taxpayers.”
Jonathan Odur, the Erute South member of parliament and a member of the parliamentary committee on Defense and Internal Affairs, said, “Otafiire is ungrateful, and he takes Ugandans for-granted. Ugandans have been paying their taxes diligently. The same Ugandans who Otafiire accuses foot the police’s Shs 900 billion annual budget. Away from the wages and recruitment, which cover approximately Sh350 billion, what happens to the remaining money? It is a case of poor planning, not inadequate resources. If they lowered their expenses on tear gas and any other racketeering, they would have the money. The problems within the police are not funding-related but organizational. Otafiire is unfair, and he most likely is detached from the realities of the day.”
“I am amazed that it is Otafiire complaining about the size of parliament. In the previous parliament, when he was the minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, we proposed that the size of parliament be reduced to about 200 MPs. It has about 150 members who actively participate in house activities. When we proposed this motion, more constituencies were created instead.
A bloated house affects the quality of debate. MPs speak for less than one minute in some cases. How do you comment on an issue like a loan application in under a minute? Otafiire can raise this motion in cabinet, and we will support him when the bill is introduced on the floor of parliament. If it means that my seat is also affected, I have no problem,” Odur added.