But Ugandans Already Pay You To Protect Them! Parliament Raises Concerns As UPDF Moves Into Private Security Business

But Ugandans Already Pay You To Protect Them! Parliament Raises Concerns As UPDF Moves Into Private Security Business

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By Spy Uganda

Kampala: Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities, and State Enterprises (COSASE) have raised concerns about the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) entering the private security sector. They fear this move might commercialize Uganda’s security at the expense of its poorest citizens.

This concern emerged following media reports in July 2023, which revealed that the UPDF’s investment wing, the National Enterprise Corporation (NEC), was establishing a private security business through its subsidiary, National Enterprise Corporation Security Services Ltd (NSSL). On February 9, 2024, the first cohort of 120 private security guards was unveiled after a month-long training at Luzira Prisons Academy and Training School.

During a review of the December 2023 Auditor General’s report last week, Allan Mayanja, the Nakaseke Central Constituency MP questioned James Mugira, NEC’s Managing Director, about the legality of the UPDF’s venture into private security and whether it could compromise national security.

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“In line with your responsibilities as NEC, we saw you also had a private security company providing security to Ugandans. Doesn’t this contradict Article 210 of the Constitution, which requires the UPDF to provide security to all Ugandans?” Mayanja, who is also Vice Chairperson of COSASE, asked.

Mugira clarified that NEC’s private security firm is not run by the UPDF but was established to assist veterans. He emphasized that the company is legally licensed by the Uganda Police Force and uses different arms than those employed by the army.

“The incorporation of NEC Security Services Limited is in line with NEC’s mandate to establish subsidiaries and carry out business. The NEC security business isn’t executed by the UPDF; rather, it’s run by NEC. We don’t deploy UPDF personnel; we recruit veterans from the UPDF, Police, civilians, and returnees who have worked in countries like Iraq. These veterans form the core of our manpower,” Mugira explained.

He added, “The arms we use aren’t the ones ordinarily used by the UPDF. We use semi-automatic rifles like other private organizations. The UPDF doesn’t pay the salaries of these workers, so we are operating within our mandate as NEC.”

Yusuf Nsimbabi, the Mawokota South Constituency MP expressed reservations about the public’s ability to distinguish between serving and retired soldiers. He stated, “There is confusion in the public because a veteran is seen almost as a serving officer. I think this specific business is causing some confusion. If I had a private security company, you wouldn’t allow me to employ a veteran because the assumption is that the veteran is still under the control and command of the regular army.”

Equally, Workers Representative, Charles Bakabulindi also voiced concerns about the difficulty in differentiating retired soldiers from serving officers, asking, “Assuming the retired officer is a brigadier or colonel, does he deserve a salute when they meet somewhere? Does he deserve respect and a salute to his title from an active junior serving soldier?”

Mugira acknowledged the MPs’ concerns, noting that there might be misconceptions between retired and serving soldiers. He explained that serving soldiers are taken care of by the army, while the private security company was established to assist veterans.

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“Indeed, as mentioned, the problem is largely a misconception. Many private security organizations in the country employ veterans of the Army and Police Force. This program was also set up to help veterans in their post-service period. They have served the institution, are able-bodied, and we think they can support the country’s security infrastructure. People need to understand and support the veterans,” Mugira said.

He added, “Our boys have been providing services in the UAE and other countries. We are absorbing them and giving them employment. This project and program should be supported by MPs and the public in the interest of our country.”

Mugira also informed MPs that the force recruits all capable Ugandans and does not limit recruitment to those with security experience.

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