THE ILLEGAL PRIVILEGES AND POMP IN UGANDA’S MOTORCADES AND CONVOYS

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A Police lead car escorting a Ugandan Government Official's motorcade/convoy

The year is 2019 and I am getting out of this Bank and all of a sudden I see a formation of armed men dressed in the black police uniform doing all sorts of military antics, dropping off a police escort pick-up and running along a Mercedes Benz while others were at the entrance of the so-called VIP Executive wing with guns corked.

There is a police car with a siren leading the convoy. The total number of vehicles is three with over ten (10) armed policemen spread all over. I am scared, shocked and at a loss thinking that the Bank has been invaded by robbers.

Wait a minute but these seem genuine policemen with a police pick up, lead car and Mercedes Benz with official government number plates. May be they are con-artists or I trespassed unto a war zone. One of the Bank security guards assists me out of my day dream and informs me that he is your boss i.e. the Chief Justice (CJ)!

Really, I am now conscious – has he come to withdraw salaries for judges? Uuhh is he the paying cashier of judges’ salaries?! And why not hire a bullion van to transport the money. Slowly I get my composure back and start remembering that the CJ and DCJ have a battalion of armed policemen that escort them.

They even stop you from proceeding to wherever you are going until the CJ or DCJ passes! When he is entering or exiting the Court premises, roads are blocked to enable them easy access into or out of the court premises.

On the road, cars are pushed off the road to allow them pass with sirens blaring and gun-toting policemen on the pick-up on alert. Some people’s cars are battered and pushed off the road in order to give way to the Honourable judicial officers to pass.

Wait a minute, when these BIG MEN are about to come to their offices, lifts are closed off to the public an hour before arrival. The passage towards the lift and offices are cleared before they walk through. I am left wondering – who are these people. Are they human like me? What did they do to the people as to be hated to such an extent that they ought to be heavily guarded?

My legal mind gets tickled with questions – how can these people protect the rule of law and respect peoples’ rights with such kind of pomp? May be it is impunity. To push one off the road for you to pass is discrimination or inequality and clearly violates the rights of another.

Who pays the salaries and allowances of the policemen and the fuel for the lead and escort cars. What of the maintenance and repair costs of the lead and escort vehicles. Well one can say this is Uganda where the toilet of the first person is given a right of way in preference over the citizens. As my friend always says that I am less of a human being than the FIRST S**T.

May be the pinnacle of justice in Uganda must be having a legal basis to conduct himself like a military general at the frontline. I quickly browse the Constitution to know what benefits and privileges are attached to the different public offices in Uganda.

First I go to the President under Article 106(1) and (3) of the Constitution which I hereunder reproduce:

106 “Terms and conditions of service of the President.

(1) The President shall be paid a salary and allowances and afforded such other benefits as Parliament shall by law provide.

…..

(3) The salary, allowances and other benefits granted to a President under this article shall be charged on the Consolidated Fund.”

Well moving with a barracks for self and family members can be said to be “such other benefits” given to the President by Parliament.

For your information, Special Forces Command (SFC) which is in charge of the security of the President is a full force. The UPDF Act, 2005 provides for only 2 i.e. land forces and air force. Under Article 208(4) of the Constitution, it is well stipulated that “No person shall raise an armed force except in accordance with this Constitution”. Well, that is Uganda under Museveni.

Under the Emoluments and Benefits of the President, Vice-President and Prime Minister Act, 2010, I note the following:

Salary, allowances and Benefits of President

180 currency points, Education allowances to cover fees for four biological or legally adopted children up to university level, subject to the following limitations—

The pre-primary, primary and secondary levels of education shall be paid for by the State only when the children study in Uganda in a Government aided school.

The State shall pay for undergraduate courses for the child outside Uganda only when the courses are not available in a University in Uganda.

Education allowance shall be paid for undergraduate courses up to undergraduate degree level where the child normally studies up to twenty-one years of age but in case of longer courses, the upper age limit shall be twenty-five years 40% of the salary as gratuity payable after every twelve months in office or as the President may require.

Free fully facilitated State house Appropriate transport Vehicles with Government paid chauffeurs, including police lead vehicle, official executive limousine and escort vehicle, Security, Medical treatment for self and family.

Travel first class or by presidential aircraft with his or her spouse, Each child of the President up to four biological or legally adopted children shall be entitled to travel one trip a year, outside Uganda at the expense of the State.

When accompanied by either or both parents, they may travel first class at the expense of the State or by presidential aircraft, when the children travel accompanied by neither parents, they may travel club class at the expense of the State.

Any trip for medical or educational purposes shall not be limited to one trip a year as stated above.

Salary, allowances and other benefits of the Vice President

175 currency points, Education allowances to cover fees for four biological or legally adopted children up to university level, subject to the following limitations—

The pre-primary, primary and secondary levels of education shall be paid for by the State only when the children study in Uganda in a Government aided school

The State shall pay for undergraduate courses for the child outside Uganda only when the courses are not available in a University in Uganda.

Education allowance shall be paid for undergraduate courses up to undergraduate degree level where the child normally studies up to twenty-one years of age but in case of longer courses, the upper age limit shall be twenty-five years 40% of the salary as gratuity payable after every twelve months in office or as the Vice President may require.

Free fully-facilitated residence, Appropriate transport Vehicles with Government paid chauffeurs, including police lead vehicle, official executive limousine and staff car, Security, Medical treatment for self and family, Travel first class or by presidential aircraft with his or her spouse.

Each child of the President up to four biological or legally adopted children shall be entitled to travel one trip a year, outside Uganda at the expense of the State. When accompanied by either or both parents, they may travel first class at the expense of the State or when the children travel accompanied by neither parent, they may travel club class at the expense of the State. Any trip for medical or educational purposes shall not be limited to one trip a year as stated above.

Salary, allowances and other benefits of the Prime Minister

160 currency points, Subsistence allowance equivalent to 225 currency points. Responsibility allowance of 40% the basic salary, Medical allowance to be determined based on market price, Telephone allowance equivalent to 10 currency points per month. Subsistence allowance at the rate equivalent to 7 currency points per night within Uganda, Safari day allowance within Uganda at the rate equivalent to 0.7 currency points per day.

Travel allowance of US$ 430 outside Uganda, a transit allowance, and an out of pocket allowance at the rate of 20% of the subsistence allowance, 40% of the salary as gratuity payable after every twelve months in office or as the Prime Minister may require, Appropriate transport – Two vehicles with chauffeurs including Police lead vehicle, Security – Four Police Guards at residence and four Police escorts, Mobilisation facility per month, Travel first class

One can say that Parliament has conferred and given all such benefits and privileges to the President. The mobile toilet must be part of the security detail as I am not knowledgeable enough in that area, I only have my reservation for such similar privileges, allowances and benefits chargeable on the Consolidated Fund being given to the members of the President’s family/first family.

Well again THIS IS UGANDA or UGANDA LTD, we can move on as long as the owner of Uganda Ltd has no objection. This explains why there are several state houses with barracks of UPDF guarding the President’s several farms and properties.

Interestingly, what Parliament gives to the President is also given to the Vice-President under Article 108(6). Another mobile toilet for the Vice President and his wife! Does the Vice-President’s family enjoy the same privileges as the President’s family? Impossible this is again Uganda.

Someone else and not the Constitution or Parliament grants such benefits and privileges to state officials. Don’t you know of the Secretary General of a party who has a lead car and convoy with armed officers and men or some MPs and Ministers who have a battalion of armed officers escorting and guarding them?

Who then is the law if the Constitution and the Statutes enacted by Parliament are not? The Prime Minister/Leader of Government business under Article 108A(6) of the Constitution enjoys the same benefits and privileges enjoyed by the Vice-President as conferred by Article 108(6).

However, under the Emoluments and Benefits of the President, Vice-President and Prime Minister Act, 2010, the Prime Minister is given only two cars including the police lead car. One wonders where the escort pick-up with the so many policemen comes from? Additionally, the escorts have to be four yet we see a battalion!

If the Prime Minister is entitled to only two cars including the lead car, plus 4 escorts and 4 guards then where do the other officials get the privileges of a lead car, escort vehicle and battalion of armed policemen? Some ministers, MPs, judges, head of parastatals and government officials enjoy these privileges. The question is who gave them these privileges?

Next are the offices of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker. Article 82(8) and (9) of the Constitution clearly spells out what the Speaker and Deputy Speaker are entitled to – viz salary allowances and gratuity. No benefits like the President, Vice-President or Prime Minister. So where do they get the lead cars and battalion of armed guards. Again that is Uganda.

Under the Administration of Parliament Act there is no provision setting out the allowances and gratuity of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker save for the salary payable to both holders of the said offices.

In respect of the Leader of Opposition under Article 82A(2)(d), Parliament is mandated to enact a law prescribing the benefits and privileges of a Leader of Parliament.

Section 6F(2) of the Amendment of the Administration of Parliament Act prescribes the benefits of the Leader of Opposition (LoP) as equivalent to that of a Cabinet Minister.

Unfortunately, under the Constitution, there are no benefits or privileges attached to the offices of Cabinet Ministers. In the same vein there is no law enacted by Parliament prescribing privileges and benefits of Cabinet Ministers.

Parallel to political leaders, we have the public officers or civil servants and heads of commissions and statutory bodies. In compliance with Article 158(2) of the Constitution, Parliament enacted the Salaries and Allowances (Specified Officers) Act, Cap. 291 providing for the salaries, allowances and benefits of, inter alia, judicial officers viz Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice, Principal Judge, Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice of the Court of Appeal and High Court judges. It should be understood that under Article 158(2), Parliament is mandated to specify offices and attach salaries and allowances chargeable on the Consolidated Fund. However, Cap. 291 seems to go beyond its mandate and prescribes benefits. We shall hereunder reproduce the salient provisions of Cap. 291 as hereunder:

“3. Salaries and allowances of specified officers

Specified officers shall be paid such salaries and allowances and afforded such benefits as are prescribed respectively in relation to their offices in the Second Schedule to the Act;
……
…..
….
….
For the avoidance of doubt, the cost of any benefits afforded to specified officers under the Second Schedule to this Act shall be charged on the Consolidated Fund.”

Salaries, allowances and benefits for judges

Chief Justice
3,150,000
Medical allowance of 3,600,000 per year
Furnished house, Transport: chauffeur driven car; security travel; travel 1st class

Deputy Chief Justice
2,870,000 Ugshs
Housing allowance of 2,500,000 per month. Medical allowance of 3,000,000 per year
Transport: chauffeur driven car; security travel; travel 1st class

Principal Judge
2,730,000 Ugshs.
Housing allowance of 2,300,000 per month. Medical allowance of 3,000,000 per year
Transport: chauffeur driven car; security travel; travel 1st class

Justice of the Supreme Court
2,640,000 Ugshs, Housing allowance of 2,200,000 per month. Medical allowance of 2,400,000 per year
Transport: chauffeur driven car; security travel; travel first class.

Justice of the Court of Appeal
2,550,000 Ugshs, Housing allowance of 2,100,000 per month, Medical allowance of 2,400,000 per year.
Transport: chauffeur driven car; security travel; travel first class.

Judge of the High Court
2,460,000Ugshs, Housing allowance of 2,000,000 per month. Medical allowance of 2,400,000 per year
Transport: chauffeur driven car; security travel; travel first class.

Under Article 158(2), Parliament is mandated to prescribe offices whose salaries and allowances are charged on the Consolidated Fund by the Constitution.

Next we have the salaries, allowances, gratuities and pensions of persons serving in the judiciary otherwise called judicial officers. In this regard Article 128(5) of the Constitution is instructive on this point.

As a starting point and for arguments sake, we may assume that Parliament had the mandate and authority under Article 158 of the Constitution to give the specified officers the benefits listed in the 4th Column of the Second Schedule thereby imposing a charge of the cost of such benefits afforded to the specified officers on the Consolidated Fund.

It should be noted that apart from a furnished house given to the CJ and first class travel for the CJ, DCJ and PJ, the judges of the High Court through justices of the CA to Justices of the SC are all entitled to the same benefits and privileges of transport being chauffer driven car and security, why then does the CJ and DCJ have a battalion of armed men driving lead cars and back up pick ups?

If that is security, then why not avail the same security as per the law given to all others viz Judges of the High Court and Justices of the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. I can see an element of pomp and wastage of taxpayers’ money.

That pomp translates into wastage and misuse of public resources, arbitrariness in the use of the roads and acts of impunity against the wanainchi by the armed guards with a resultant effects of violating peoples’ rights, freedoms and liberties.

A friend of mine who had lived outside Uganda for some time and had just come back, told me that he saw a barrel of the gun pointed at him by the guards on the pick-up and out of shock drove the car unto a nearby trench. Surprisingly none of the cars in the convoy stopped to assist him.

He got injured and the car also got damaged. Additionally and most importantly, this arbitrariness and impunity is founded on abuse of the rule of law and contraventions of the principles of good governance and accountability.

Well this being Uganda as the slogan has become, one would not mind, but the CJ and DCJ to do that, then who will protect the victims of arbitrariness and impunity. Who will determine whether the rule of law has been violated and abused? Wait a minute, may be the CJ, DCJ and PJ never asked for such privileges and benefits but were just given by the Executive.

I also ask why not object and refuse what the law has not given to you? Rejecting the privileges by the office holders aside, what are the implications of accepting and enjoying the privileges or pomp on the independence of the office holders as judicial officers? You know very well that you are enjoying illegal privileges and benefits, and imposing illegal expenses and costs on the Consolidated Fund not conferred by the law but by an individual, to whom would you be loyal – the individual who grants you the privileges or the law that does not grant you the privileges.

My question is to whom are the armed guards answerable. Who feeds them and fuels their vehicles. Are their expenses charged on the judiciary vote or Uganda Police? By the way what is the cost of such pomp in the form of benefits and privileges translated unto monthly withdrawals from the Consolidated Fund.

You can compute the cost of fuel for the two cars, salaries and allowances for the 10 armed guards plus service of the two cars. I wouldn’t be surprised if the cost per month of the pomp wouldn’t pay a salary for one judicial officer.

The assumptions aside and back to the law, does the Constitution grant the benefits listed in the 4th column? May be yes or no, it is a question of interpretation, but who would adjudicate and resolve such a dispute fairly and justly. What if one sued the CJ and DCJ to recover the monetary equivalent of expenses spent on the CJs and DCJs extra security apparatus i.e. the two cars plus 10 policemen would the scales of justice remain balanced or justice would remove the blindfold to see justice?

Additional to the recovery of the monetary equivalent one can seek for a declaration that the two judicial officers abused their Oath of Office when they failed to uphold the law and arrogated themselves benefits and privileges not conferred by the law rendering them unfit to hold such offices.

There is the spanner in the wheels – which judge would take on the case and adjudicate the same fairly and with impartiality. Wait a minute, wouldn’t the judge be conflicted having to consider the question whether by taking more than he gets in terms of benefits and privileges, the CJ and DCJ acted illegally?

The judge has one chauffeured car and one armed policeman as per the law while the CJ and DCJ have three cars plus over 10 armed policemen. This same judge presides over cases of, inter alia, alleged terrorists, rapist, murderers, embezzlers and election thieves.

Who is more vulnerable and exposed to danger than the CJ and DCJ? If a judge has one guard surely would the CJ and DCJ have over and above what the judge has must be pomp?

Did you also know that under the Traffic & Road Safety Act, 1998 as Amended and the Traffic and Road Safety (Rules of the Road) Regulations, 2004, the CJ’s vehicle just like the President’s has a right of way or must be given a right of way by all other road users, and as such his motor vehicle is an authorized emergency motor vehicle?

I clearly do not see any reference to the DCJ, PJ or Deputy Speaker nor cabinet ministers. What of the Secretary General of NRM or Leader of Opposition? What then is going on with all those officials enjoying illegal privileges?

In the Daily Monitor of March 3, 2020, there is a newspaper report under the headline “IGP withdraws guards from leaders”, stating that:

“Inspector General of Police, Martin Okoth-Ochola has ordered the withdrawal of police officers guarding public servants and civilians that are not legally entitled to such protection.

Police have also told individuals and organisations, including government agencies, that have been benefitting from the service of Very Important People Protection Unit to re-apply for them. A review is to be done on those with police officers.”

The report ends with a commentary as hereunder:

“Numbers. The number of police officers guarding individuals has increased from 1,700 personnel to 6,000 in nine years. The Strength of the police force is 47,000.

The police laws give the IGP powers to give individuals or entities police security if he or she is satisfied that there is a need.

Benefits. Police officers attached to such duties have been making additional income with each getting an average of Shs. 300,000 per month.

However, the beneficiary must pay government revenue for the police services. A third of the payment goes into the Police Welfare Fund and the remainder into the Consolidated Fund.”

Does it mean that the enjoyment of illegal privileges and benefits by state officials is well known? Who is responsible for approving and sanctioning such illegalities that drain the public coffers and result in wastage of public resources?

As I am getting my senses back, a client comes into my chambers with instructions to seek for redress for the death of her husband. Her husband aged 36 years was a business man and got a stroke while at their home in Namugongo.

She got her husband into their family car and drove towards Nakasero Hospital. While on the way, she attempted to overtake the convoy or motorcade of the Secretary General of NRM that was driving casually towards the NRM Headquarters on Kyadondo Road.

She was stopped, arrested and taken to police while her husband was in the car wreathing with pain. The police alleged she had contravened Regulation 5(2), (3) and (6) of the Traffic and Road Safety (Rules of the Road) Regulations, 2004.

As she was sorting out the alleged violation of the law, her husband died in the car. There was a stampede and the client was left to go. The family retained an expert who examined the deceased and in his opinion the deceased would have been rescued if he had got timely medical attention! The client wants to stop the impunity and also get compensation. She wants me to sue the officials involved individually.

Before I take action, my questions to the officials who have motorcades or convoys, lead cars, escort vehicles and battalions of armed policemen and soldiers are:

Who gave you those privileges cum pomp and under what law do you enjoy them?

Why did you accept to enjoy the pomp and illegal privileges? Why do you fear the public and what wrong have you committed against the people of Uganda?

In enjoying the illegal privileges and pomp, are you adhering to the rule of law, good governance and accountability principles?

Are you human and equal to all other Ugandans or you are super-human. If so, how?

I won’t ask whether you have a conscience, but I will ask you sleep at night or think about us – the people.

Do your acts of enjoying illegal privileges and pomp amount to impunity, arbitrariness or abuse of power?

How much does it cost the taxpayer to maintain the pomp and illegal privileges you enjoy?

Can you then stop this impunity, arbitrariness and abuse of power and protect the rule of law and generally the people of Uganda?

Lastly as a judicial officer, if a person is brought before you and is alleged to have committed such acts of enjoying illegal privileges and caused such attendant wastage of public resources, what punishment would you give out to him or her?

Mr. Mohmed Mbabazi is a Senior Advocate of the High Court of Uganda

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