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Inside Story: Military Officers to Run Uganda’s Immigration Department

President Museveni has nominated senior army officers to high ranking positions at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in what officials said is part of a wider plan to counter illegal immigration in the country.

Brigadier Apollo Kasiita Gowa, who has been serving as Defence Attaché to Washington, America, will now head Uganda’s Immigration Department.

Gowa served as head of Chieftaincy Integrated Resource Management Information Systems (CIRMIS).

Col Johnson Nahamya, who previously served as Acting Special Forces Commander and later Deputised Maj Gen James Mugira at the Luwero Defence Industries, is the new commissioner passports and citizenship.

A source described Col Namanya as “an extremely upright officer,” adding, “The former PGB Commander is a very honest and humble gentleman but intellectually strong and firm as a commander.”

Col Geoffrey Kambare who was in charge of intelligence collection will take over as the new Commissioner of Immigration.

“It is true there are such recommendations,” said Defence Spokesperson, Brigadier Richard Karemire.

“However, they require to go through the public service commission process. Let us therefore await that confirmation process,” he told ChimpReports on Saturday morning.

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The nominations follow public complaints that the department had turned into a den of thieves who were unable to clamp down on illegal immigration.

Immigration officers have since been accused of aiding drug dealers, human traffickers and also providing Ugandan passports to foreign criminals.

The development also comes against the backdrop of a huge public outcry over corruption, lethargy and lack of innovation at the Immigration Department; hindering public service delivery.

Cases of Ugandans paying bribes to obtain travel documents have been rampant for years.

Militarisation?

Pressed to explain if the deployments would not further the militarization of the public service sector, Brigadier Karemire responded: “Not at all. It has been long overdue to bring security experts within such a department.”

He said “competency will no doubt positively enhance national security and provide better services to the public through strengthening border security controls as well as checking illegal immigrants.”

Uganda is among a few countries with less stringent immigration checks which has allowed illegal immigrants to operate businesses and even engage in crime in Uganda.

But officials told us on condition of anonymity to speak freely that the illegal immigration crisis has been worsening in recent years.

Just recently, authorities in Masaka expressed alarm that buses were dumping Rwandans and Congolese in Buganda region.

The illegal immigrants who would come to Uganda under the guise of visiting their friends and families do not return home but engage in petty business such as selling biscuits along the roads.

The new team at Immigration is expected to create systems to address illegal immigration which as well exerts pressure on meagre public services such as roads and hospitals.

“This is no small matter .Therefore look at it positively. Take the example of NIRA which has some security experts and has done a great job in a short period of time,” said Karemire.

President Museveni recently said the country now has a large pool of educated people whom he would use to replace corrupt civil servants.

Observers say Museveni could be trying to adopt models used by European countries and North American countries whose immigration officers are drawn from the security apparatus and given military training.

Currently, the army is already involved in civil engineering works such as road construction; manufacturing and value addition.

The most successful national carrier in Africa, Ethiopian Airlines, is run by the nation’s army.

It’s understood Museveni wants UPDF to run critical government departments as he can easily control the army officers as opposed to public servants who take orders from their superior officers.

“What the President is doing is showing the public that he can do away with public servants. The army has a huge pool of loyal and well educated officers to run the show,” said a source.

“And this is just the beginning. Expect this trend to continue most likely in the National Forestry Authority and National Environmental Management Authority.”

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