A controversial list submitted to Parliament by MP Joseph Ssewungu (DP, Kalungu West) on the composition of the Mineral Police has pitted some MPs against Internal Affairs Minister, Gen Jeje Odongo.
MP Ssewungu claims the Mineral Police is not equitably established and does not reflect the diversity of Uganda.
He read a list detailing the composition of the officers, which Gen Odongo disputes.
“I want the Minister to come here not with stories but a list to contradict the one I have read,” said Ssewungu, who earned the support of Chief Opposition Whip Hon Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda on the matter.
A report from the Committee on Natural Resources also raised concerns about the unit, except that the Committee’s complaint was specific about the administrative concerns surrounding the force and an outpouring of claims of torture from the communities where they are deployed.
MP Oliver Katwesigye (INDEP., Buhweju District), for instance, accused the force of having direct involvement in mining activities to the detriment of locals who she said have been pushed out of the trade.
Gen Odongo dismissed Ssewungu’s claims, saying the unit was created to “implement plans, policies and strategies for effective security of minerals in the country.”
The unit, he added, was also created to “liaise with the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources in ensuring compliance to standards guiding the mining industry.”
The law, he added, mandates the Inspector General of Police to create such units to “respond to emerging policing challenges arising out of the dynamism of society.”
The unit has been a sticky issue in the Ministry, with Minerals State Minister Hon Sarah Opendi openly expressing reservations about the alleged conduct of the force.
Gen Odongo has told MPs that prior to coming up with his explanation on the matters surrounding the unit, he first made consultations with Minister Opendi.
The Mineral Police numbers 148 officers and men, and are currently deployed in six gold producing districts.
MP Kenneth Lubogo (NRM, Bulamogi), criticised the Minister for what he said was a narrow area of deployment, saying other areas that have mineral deposits do not have the officers working there. He called for the expansion of the unit to cater for other minerals except gold, which he said is the current major preoccupation of the unit.