KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Uganda is deploying military escorts and buying armored trucks for each of its more than 400 lawmakers while blaming growing insecurity, but critics blast the decision as too expensive for a poor country that long has been considered one of Africa’s more stable nations.
Longtime President Yoweri Museveni issued the directive in a June 29 letter to the finance minister that cites “shallow criminality and terrorism” in recent years.
Some lawmakers have cited threats since passing a bill in December that opened the door for the 73-year-old Museveni to possibly rule into the 2030s. The bill was opposed by many Ugandans and is being challenged in court.
Kizza Besigye, Uganda’s most prominent opposition leader, said on Twitter that lawmakers feel the need to tighten their security “because they were used” by Museveni in his efforts to prolong his rule.
It was not immediately clear how much the new security measures for lawmakers will cost. Most lawmakers are with the ruling party.
One ruling party lawmaker, Ibrahim Abiriga, was shot dead by unknown gunmen near the capital, Kampala, last month. It was one of several gun attacks in the country since 2015, with victims including a public prosecutor, a police spokesman and several Muslim preachers.
Museveni, a key U.S. security ally, took power by force in 1986 and has since won election four times. The last vote in 2016 was marred by allegations of fraud.
Although Museveni has campaigned on his strong security record over the years, some worry that those gains are being depleted as he stays longer in power.
Uganda is sliding slowly into crisis, the International Crisis Group reported late last year as lawmakers prepared to pass the bill that removed a presidential age limit from the constitution. It had prevented anyone over 75 from holding the office.
“Uganda is in urgent need of political and administrative reform to prevent a slide toward an increasingly dysfunctional, corrupt and insecure system,” the think tank said.
The government, which depends heavily on external borrowing to finance ambitious infrastructure projects, has been struggling to raise domestic revenue. New taxes passed last month include a daily levy on the use of social media that has sparked anger and calls for nationwide protests.