“There is nothing which is open to everyone, there are limitations to everything even in your house; and there are areas which some people don’t reach. There are areas which for security reasons, this committee is not allowed to visit.” This was a statement by General Elly Tumwine the Security Minister while appearing before the Parliamentary Committee of Human Rights. The Minister had been invited to update the committee on the state of Safe houses in Uganda.
This follows a motion raised before the August House by Kawempe North’s Hon. Lateef Ssebaggala, Lwemiyaga County MP Theodre Sekikubo and Hon. Kasiano Wadiri for Gen Tumwine to explain what the Government conducted illegal arrests and detentions of Ugandans in “safe houses” without trial.
In a heated discussion, the Committee demanded that the Minister respond to among other things; whether indeed there were safe houses in Uganda, the number of safe houses, under which laws they were operating, how people were taken to safe houses, who qualified to be kept in safe houses and why was it that majority of persons who were being kept the safe houses were from the opposition parties specifically, “people power.”(Pressure group)
General Tumwine informed the committee that Uganda had safe houses and noted that safe houses were secure places used for intelligence work. He further said that all intelligence and security agencies world over operate safe houses and that the running of safe houses was not peculiar to Uganda but a worldwide intelligence practice. He highlighted that some functions of a safe house in Uganda included:
• To coordinate clandestine intelligence operations
• To debrief and re-brief intelligence assets
• To secure and protect witnesses in danger, especially criminals who have turned into witnesses
• To secure persons who come seeking to be protected by the state for various security reasons
• To manage hard-core criminals who require a long time to reform and now need observation and surveillance.
The Minister in his remarks criticised the committee for not giving him enough time to answer questions that had been put to him to respond to.