Ministers, VIPs ask to change guards
- Written by SAMUEL MUHINDO, GEOFREY SERUGO & SIRAJE LUBWAMA
In the wake of the murder of Charles Engola, the erstwhile state minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, several ministers and VIPs have petitioned the Uganda Police directorate of counterterrorism to change or remove some guards attached to them.
On the other hand, some VIPs are reported to have turned down recent transfers of their guards without solid reasons. Col Engola was shot dead by one of his bodyguards Pte Wilson Sabiiti before the latter turned the gun on himself. Before shooting himself, Sabiiti is said to have complained of low pay which was also delayed.
Ordinarily, ministers and VIPs are assigned police guards from the counterterrorism directorate but upon request, they are given extra guards from the UPDF, who are mostly deployed to do the tough tasks such as guarding from the lead car as well as guarding at the homes of ministers. Sabiti was an army private.
The Observer could not authoritatively confirm the ministers and state ministers that have petitioned Very Important Persons Protection unit (VIPPU) but one is mentioned to be from the Gender ministry and another from the Agriculture ministry.
On Monday, a top police official attached to the VIPPU who preferred anonymity, confirmed to The Observer that they are overwhelmed by requests from ministers and some VIPs, expressing anxiety over their bodyguards. VIPPU falls under the directorate of counterterrorism.
Among the reasons given for the reshuffle are that some high-ranking officials think that the guards are not loyal to them.
“Some are asking to have particular individuals transferred from their entourage while others are seeking to have a say on who they are assigned as guards,” said the source. “There are a few of them with solid grounds but many of them are just anxious for nothing.”
Asked if the VIPPU will heed to the pleas, the source said it is highly unlikely.
“We will treat every case on its merits but there is no chance for the ministers and VIPs to have a say on who they choose as guards.”
Reached out for a comment, senior commissioner of police Hadijah Namutebi, the police chief political commissar, said she needed more time to verify the claims.
A state minister in the Finance ministry who was interviewed by The Observer denied requesting for a change of his bodyguards but reiterated that the force needs to thoroughly evaluate the state of mind of guards before assigning them.
“After the killing of Engola, we need to have guards who are professional and loyal. They [guards] need to be fully examined physically and mentally before they are assigned to us,” said the minister.
Meanwhile, our VIPPU source has also confirmed that a top director at KCCA is among those that have resisted the abrupt transfer of a bodyguard.
“You came to my office to have a discussion on the withdrawal of my personal bodyguard, who has been with me for two and half years now. You advised me that according to the police standing orders, a female officer is not supposed to guard a male principal. I specifically requested you to put all this in writing, especially the breaches of the police standing orders,” reads the protest letter to police.
“You realize that personal protection is about life. I am very concerned about the sudden transfer of my guard on the basis of provisions that are not in the police standing orders and I wonder what the urgency is to move the guard without any prior notice or specific request from myself or the guard to be changed. Should you choose to proceed to withdraw the guard, I will have no choice but stay without a guard for now.”
Whereas most of the fears among ministers and VIPs is directed towards their bodyguards, it has emerged that drivers could also pose a danger.
In a voice note making the rounds on social media, Stanley Kisambira, a driver at the judiciary since 2008, decried the high costs of living while his principal enjoys huge perks facilitated by the government. Kisambira wondered why everyone at the judiciary had their salaries increased except those of the drivers.
“We were told that the salaries of judges will be increased because they don’t do business. When drivers apply for leave, the judge declines the request even when it has been approved by the judiciary. Since 2008, I have been earning Shs 200, 000 as allowances, yet the price for a bar of soap stands at Shs 6,000. I am so annoyed. I want any concerned person to call me so I can explain my experiences as a driver. What can that money do? I am renting, I have to pay school fees for my children and feed them. What can I do? Why do they push us this far?” he wondered.
“Someone spends Shs 500,000 on shopping but when you see what he has bought, you get surprised. Imagine me who goes with Shs 50,000 to shop for my family. When I get home and tell my wife that those goods are worth Shs 50,000, she says that I am joking. The judiciary should look into our concerns. Sabiiti killed minister Engola, but I can ram into a stationary truck and kill all the car occupants. The bodyguard can only kill one person but a driver can kill all the car occupants in an accident,” he said.
Despite working in the same institution, Kisambira noted that there were disparities in the salaries earned by drivers working under the same institution.
“Some drivers earn allowances as high as Shs 2 million while others earn as little as Shs 200,000.”
Interviewed, Jameson Karemani the spokesperson for the judiciary, confirmed that Kisambira was their staff. He added, “The institution has reached out to Kisambira to guide him on how best his concerns can be addressed. Whereas the approved salary for drivers may be inadequate, the judiciary leadership resolved that the allowances for all non-judicial staff in the institutions be enhanced in line with the 2018 orders for on-duty facilitation allowances to support the lower cadre staff, especially non-judicial staff and as a result, each driver is given a reasonable allowance paid quarterly”.
Kisambira was arrested on Monday, detained at Kampala Central Police Station (CPS), and police is inquiring about the allegations he made in the audio where he claimed he could cause an accident with the principal inside.
Speaking to The Observer, Dr Loyce Kobusingye from the Makerere University School of Psychology said the incidents of guards either shooting or threatening violence against their principals depicted was deep-rooted in frustrations.
These frustrations, she said, were exacerbated by the poor state of the economy, unfulfilled dreams following rural-urban migration and a general hysterical belief that ‘someone out there’ has caused their suffering.
She added, “Although Covid-19 is gone, it left several people’s economic standing irreparably broken. The increasing levels of rural-urban migration worsen the situation when these young people cannot find meaning in the jobs that they do. The income disparities in Uganda are clear. The rich are rich, while the poor are so poor that they cannot afford life”.
Sabiiti raises Shs 1.9 million in death
The Observer has established that a section of Ugandans on social media have raised approximately Shs 1.9 million for the family of Sabiiti. Until the double tragedy, Sabiiti was Engola’s bodyguard.
The campaign to raise funds for Sabiiti’s family was led by Alfred Luwangula on Twitter. Luwangula said his decision to support Sabiiti was inspired by his experiences with men in uniform most of whom claimed mistreatment.
After watching the interview Oliva Musiimenta, Sabiiti’s sister, Luwangula tweeted asking for anyone who could be knowing Sabiiti’s relatives.
“Two separate people close to Sabiiti shared Musiimenta’s contact with me”. After confirming that it was Musiimenta, Luwangula added, “I tweeted confirming that I had got the number which I later shared with the rest. We have raised 1.9 million though our target is four million shillings”.
Musiimenta confirmed that they had received the money which they were going to use to look after the family. “He left behind five children, with the eldest child aged 12 years and the youngest who hasn’t been brought to us being a few weeks old”.
To this day, Musiimenta noted that the military hadn’t approached them formally to communicate about Sabiiti’s death and burial programs.
It is the "social injustice and insecurity" on the bantu wa wansi that is driving everybody crazy because of the naked day-light injustices Ugandans are being subjected to by those in public offices masquerading in the name of civil servants.
Where in the world do "servants" live like Kings, Queens, Princes/Princesses and Nobles, while the people they are suppose to serve live in widespread poverty, servitude, destitution and/or near slaves?
Not sure to which tribe Sabiiti belonged . but I wonder if Musimenta is not inviting a curse by ignoring the fact that Sabiiti comitted suicide
Soon it is going to be the close and trustworthy relatives who should bodyguard these very Important people in this administration!
Treat them right like human beings not machines. They are overworked, hungry most of the time, paid little money, what do you expect?
We will see more of such if the root cause is not established and corrected. Remember guns don't protect it's you to protect yourself self.
It's not only bodyguards and drivers who are frustrated, we, as a country, are all frustrated! The bottom line is, M7, his family, relatives, tribesmen and militants must go. That is what needs and/or must change. Now. Not tomorrow.
Otherwise change of bodyguards and drivers for ministers and VIPs is not the answer to Uganda's problem, M7 is the problem and the root cause of all the problems in Uganda.
All I am saying is that over Uganda , suicide is a curse that must be "kept away from home" You simply do not carry out a normal funeral of someone that has killed him/herself.
More red cards....... ?