The alleged presence of another group of unauthorized security personnel in Parliament has caused a ruckus, prompting the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to order for an inquiry into the matter.
According to the Speaker, following the chaos in Parliament in October in which opposition MPs were injured during a forceful eviction carried out by officers of the Special Forces Command (SFC), she ordered that the parliamentary police be the only force to secure the precincts of Parliament.
And today, the issue of ‘strangers’ came to light after Amuru Woman MP Lucy Akello told the house that there were security personnel occupying the Catholic Chapel at Parliament, and that they had used the place for their upkeep and also destroyed music equipment.
This prompted the Speaker to suspend proceedings this morning, and order for an investigation in the matter.
“I issued security guidelines; I said only Parliamentary Police should be securing this police. Any other deployment must be communicated to my office. In the course of the recess, I also received complaints that there were people in Anglican chaplaincy, plates in both. So I want to know who those people there are. I want you to explain who they are. I told you I want peace, if they are Parliamentary Police, why should there be plates. I want an explanation who was in those two chaplaincies? I want to know before we proceed,” Kadaga told the house that also had in attendance the Minister of Internal Affairs General Abubaker Jeje Odong.
In response Gen. Jeje Odong admitted the reported presence of ‘strangers’ but hastened to add that they were not using the chaplainces.
“It is true it was reported that there were unknown individuals in the precepts (precincts) of Parliament. When we broke for the lunch break I asked the Sergeant at Arms who keeps the keys to the chapel. The keys are kept by the leadership of the faith,” he said.
He added: “I also went to verify whether there were people other than the authorized policemen; there were policemen eating but not in the Chapel. Indeed, there were utensils that had been used by the policemen but the utensils were in the corridors, not in the chapel. So it isn’t true that the chapel was used as eating places.”
Earlier, Buyaga County MP Barnabas Tinkasimiire, who described himself as a staunch Catholic, had also protested the ‘strangers’ reported presence in the chapel.
“For avoidance of doubt, the biggest priority I hold dearly is my heavenly father. The person who guides me to keep on lane is the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has instruments that they use. One of them is this rosary that the. We picked hundreds of plates cups when we reached, we were intercepted but we overpowered the policemen and he lost three buttons,” Tinkasimiire said, emphasising: “I want to tell you that I have priorities in life and the fundamental one is my heavenly father.”
And in response Kadaga said: “What we are talking about is extremely serious. If indeed there were people in chaplaincy, we would like to know why, did they sleep there? It is unfortunate that the matter happened here. If they were living here, that’s dangerous.”
Government Chief Whip also weighed in, promising to get to the bottom of the matter.
“I entirely agree and appreciate the point raised by Akello that it is something we have to find out. It just happened few hours ago, you haven’t had time to investigate. The Minister has given a statement, some MPs aren’t satisified. Whether we don’t give ourselves time, this matter has to be thoroughly investigated and I don’t think at this particular moment, we shall find out the truth,” she said.
To soothe the embers that were beginning to smoke, security minister Lt. Gen. Henry Tumukunde said his colleague Gen. Odong had offered an explanation.
“The Minister of Internal Affairs said that the keys to these rooms of worship are kept by respective members. If we say there are strangers that accessed the people who keep the keys must explain,” Lt. Gen. Tumukunde said, prompting Speaker Kadaga to direct the clerk to avail Parliament with a report on the custody of the keys.