The Minister for Security, Gen Elly Tumwiine has told members of parliament sitting on the Human Rights Committee of Parliament that he is still ready to die for the freedom of Ugandans.
General Tumwine has told members of the Human Rights Committee questioning him on the legality of safe houses that the government of Uganda led by president Yoweri Museveni holds the freedom of Ugandans at heart.
“To be a freedom fighter, you must be a human rights activist. We want to welcome your good will to know that we went to the bush to fight for your freedom,” the minister told the members of parliament on the Human Rights Committee.
The minister appeared on invitation from the Committee Chairperson Hon Jeniffer Nantume Egunyu to answer questions relating to the legality of operating safe houses by security agencies in the country.
Gen Tumwine was called along with several heads of security agencies but only turned up alone.
Appearing before the committee last week, Tumwine was tasked to find answers to twenty questions relating to the issue of safe houses.
The minister offered the following responses to some stand out questions:
Are there safe houses in Uganda? Yes.
Under what laws do they operate? There are no laws establishing safe houses but, there is also no law that bars them.
How many safe houses are there in Uganda? There are several of them depending on their need.
Where are they located? They are located in many places across the country.
How many Ugandans are being held in safe houses today? I don’t know because the number changes according to security requirement.
Under what major offence are people kept in safe houses?
They do not charge people in safe houses. People are charged in courts of law.
Under what procedures do you enter and come out of a safe house?
As directed by the director generals.
Why is ISO doing police work?
ISO does not do Police work. It works with Police to arrest criminals.
How does security work with criminals work like Sobi?
Reformed criminals are vital to helping security in intelligence gathering and bringing other criminals to book.
Is the minister aware that offences are being committed against women in safe houses?
No. I’m not.
Is the minister aware that under age children are being kept in safe houses?
No. I’m not.
Are safe houses necessary?
They are necessary to the security of the country.
Why are People Power members being put in safe houses?
Security is for all and against all against it.
The minister’s responses to certain questions drew angry reactions from almost everyone on the committee.
The chair of the Committee Hon Jennifer Nantume at one point inquired as to why the minister was so bold in admitting that there are safe houses in the country that are not legally established by the constitution.
“But Hon Minister, how can you say there are safe houses now and you said the same thing before parliament last week?” she asked.
Earlier, when the minister was beginning his responses, he had opened with a citation of the preamble of the constitution and it’s objectives.
“Both members of the committee and the public should know that things have not just happened. And I want to start with a preamble from our constitution that says that ‘Recalling our history which has been characterized by political and institutional instability; Recognizing our struggles against the forces of tyranny, oppression and exploitation; committed to building a better future by establishing a socio-economic and political order through a popular and durable constitution’,” he quoted.
As former head of the External Security Organisation, the minister says he knows how to get information from any one without torturing them.
“I know how to get information from anyone in a quiet safe house and that’s how we’ve managed,” he added.
“I have always stated that we are not angels and part of the reason for us UPDF being in Parliament is to hear your concerns and work them out,” he further stated.
The minister gave examples of UPDF officers who have been dismissed for indiscipline.
These include Corporal Ogopa William and Asingwire Patrick.
“Any private citizen has a right to raise a concern. If you know of any one being tortured anywhere, you can report the matter to police,” he observed.
The minister urged the members of Parliament to count on him in investigating allegations of torture.