Parliament has embarked on a process to censure Security Minister, Gen. Elly Tumwine over alleged operation of ‘safe houses’.
Shadow Internal Affairs Minister, Muwanga Kivumbi amended a report on ‘safe houses’, a generic term to denote torture chambers, to include the censure of Gen. Tumwine.
The Chairperson of the Committee on Human Rights, Jennifer Egunyu had earlier pinned Tumwine for obstruction. “The Minister for Security be held accountable for failing the committee work by denying the committee access to safe houses and for blocking the committee’s interaction with the security heads,” said Egunyu.
MPs then, in near unanimity heaped blame on Tumwiine and government security apparatus for alleged torture, and rebuked Gen. Tumwine for saying he would not permit the committee’s interaction with Internal Security Organisation Director General, Col Frank Kaka Bagyenda.
The main committee report also sanctioned Col Bagyenda for shunning the Committee.
“I propose that we amend the motion and have the Minister of Security censured by this Parliament,” said MP Louis Mbwatekamwa
Deputy Chief Opposition Whip, Roland Kaginda Mugume said Parliament should take the step to censure Tumwiine, saying that will form a basis for government to take Parliament seriously. “If we start with Tumwine, other Ministers will follow suit,” said Kaginda.
With Tumwine a no-show, it was up to the Minister for Karamoja Affairs, John Byabagambi, to defend government.
“The government does not at all condone the torture of anybody whether guilty or not; even the President [Yoweri Museveni] said there are civilised methods of getting information from suspects,” he said.
He added, “We have listened to the concerns of MPs genuinely; the government is going to take action; I will report to the Prime Minister on the concerns of MPs; whoever l has committed a crime will answer.”
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, however, said government is taking so long to present treasury memoranda on human rights detailing actions taken against officers specifically named by Parliament.
“I would be happy if government would come up with a memorandum to Parliament on human rights with actions taken; show your commitment by taking action which everyone can see,” she said.
The pace was already set for MP Kivumbi to proceed with his amendment, which can threaten to end Minister Tumwiine’s tenure as Security Minister.
“…all safe houses and ungazetted detention facilities be closed with immediate effect; I also move that a motion of censure against Gen Elly Tumwine be initiated,” said Kivumbi.
His motion was unanimously endorsed.
Rule 108 of the Rules of Procedure details the process of getting a Minister censured, which has to contend with the Member spearheading the censure notifying the Clerk to Parliament in writing, citing the grounds and a proposed motion with the basis for the censure.
Last year, Kawempe MP Latif Ssebagala (IND, Kawempe North), supported by Arua Municipality’s Kassiano Wadri, successfully moved a motion to have the House investigate the alleged existence of safe houses.
Gen. Tumwine then told the Committee that he will not sanction Col Bagyenda and the Commander of the elite Special Forces Command (SFC), Maj Gen James Birungi, to interact with MPs.