Burora Arrest: MPs Troubled By Overreach of Parliamentary Police

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MPs are raising concerns about the overreach of parliamentary police following the remanding of former deputy resident city commissioner (RCC) Anderson Herbert Burora to Luzira Prison on charges of hate speech.

Burora was arrested on July 1, 2024, from his home in Ntinda-Kigowa, initially detained at Kira Road Police Station, and subsequently transferred to the Central Police Station in Kampala. The arrest was carried out by officers from the parliamentary police.

According to the prosecution, between March 2024 and June 2024, Burora allegedly used his X handle, formerly known as Twitter, to disseminate information intended to ridicule, degrade, demean, and promote hostility against Anita Annet Among, the Speaker of Parliament of Uganda. He is also accused of sharing malicious information about the Speaker.

In 2012, the Inspector General of Police established the Police Directorate at Parliament to enhance security and prevent potential terror attacks. Initially, the police deployment at Parliament functioned as a police station with fewer than 100 officers. The parliamentary commission later approved an increase to over 300 officers. The directorate has since been elevated to the status of a police division, managed by a division police commander (DPC).

The Parliament (Powers and Privileges) Act allows an officer of Parliament to arrest any person committing an offence in their presence without a warrant. The Act also authorizes the arrest of anyone within the precincts of Parliament reasonably suspected of having committed or being about to commit an offence. Prosecution for offences under this Act requires written sanction from the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Police Reaction

Luke Owoyesigyire, the deputy spokesperson for Kampala Metropolitan Police, clarified the role and jurisdiction of the parliamentary police.

“The police at Parliament are a division police commanded by a district police commander. They handle more than just parliamentary matters and can arrest suspects outside Parliament with the sanction of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). They are under the command of the Inspector General of Police (IGP),” he explained.

Owoyesigyire emphasized that the Speaker does not control or command the police. “Cases of computer misuse occur nationwide. There is no conflict of interest because the Speaker is involved. Anyone working at Parliament can report their case to the police, have it investigated, and proceed accordingly. The parliamentary police handle cases from committees regardless of the suspect’s origin. If a committee orders an arrest, it will be executed,” he stated.

MPs Speak Out

Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo expressed concerns over the recent actions. “This is the first time I’ve seen the Speaker of Parliament cause two people to be detained at Luzira Prison for expressing their opinions. This is politics. If you do not want to be criticized, stay out of politics. Tolerance is necessary. The use of parliamentary police to arrest people for actions outside Parliament is troubling,” Ssekikubo remarked.

Bukanga North MP Nathan Byanyima noted that no MP has been arrested or detained by parliamentary police since its establishment. “We have immunity as MPs. When Parliament convenes, the Speaker makes a proclamation. MPs with cases often hide in Parliament until late,” he said.

Tororo Woman MP Sarah Opendi Achieng expressed shock at the actions of the parliamentary police. “Parliamentary police were established to guard Parliament and provide security for MPs and staff. It is shocking that they now conduct arrests outside their jurisdiction. Some MPs and staff use them to arrest people in their constituencies. We will demand answers when Parliament resumes,” she said.

Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake accused the parliamentary police of being used by individuals to target opponents. “They work for specific individuals. They conduct arrests and detain critics of those at Parliament, even when their jurisdiction should be limited to Parliament precincts,” he said.

The case against Anderson Herbert Burora has highlighted concerns about the role and actions of the parliamentary police.

As MPs demand answers and express their dissatisfaction, the situation underscores the need for clarity and accountability in the enforcement of laws and the use of police powers within and outside the precincts of Parliament.

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