Country Report on Terrorism 2014 - Chapter 2 - Uganda

Overview: In 2014, the Government of Uganda was a strong advocate of cross-border solutions to security issues, effectively supported U.S. counterterrorism efforts, and showed continued and strong political will to apprehend suspected terrorists and disrupt terrorist activity in Uganda. Terrorist groups such as al-Shabaab, however, continued to put consistent pressure on Uganda’s security apparatus primarily due to Uganda contributing troops to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Uganda’s ability to respond to such threats remained inconsistent, given its resource and capacity limitations, porous borders, and corruption at all levels of government.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Uganda continued to use the Anti-Terrorism Act (2002) as its main legal framework for deterring, disrupting, and prosecuting terrorist activity and incidents in Uganda. The Uganda Police Force (UPF) Counterterrorism Directorate is the lead Ugandan law enforcement entity charged with investigating, disrupting, and responding to terrorist incidents. While Ugandan law enforcement officers assigned to this directorate are highly motivated, the UPF overall was limited in its capacity to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents due to the lack of manpower, resources, basic skills, and competencies. In addition, police officers are particularly susceptible to corruption. Moreover, the bulk of the counterterrorism police and other law enforcement elements are centrally located in the capital, which limits the effectiveness of law enforcement in the border regions and all areas outside Kampala. The UPF still lacks the technological resources needed to conduct comprehensive terrorism investigations in the most effective manner. Following the Westgate terrorist attack in Nairobi in 2013, the UPF has held regular interagency meetings to ensure coordination among its security agencies.

The United States continued to provide significant counterterrorism assistance to the UPF, specifically through the Department of State’s Antiterrorism Assistance program, which builds capacity in the areas of counterterrorism investigations, crisis response, and border security.

Border security remained a persistent concern for the Ugandan government, which continued to work to expand enforcement and monitoring capacity. Uganda continued to employ biometric security measures at airports.

On September 13, Uganda demonstrated its ability to disrupt an imminent terrorist threat when Ugandan security services conducted an extremely complex and large operation to disrupt an al-Shabaab terrorist cell that was in the final planning stages of an imminent attack on unknown targets in Kampala. Approximately 16 suspects were arrested on September 13, and five more were arrested on September 15 and 16. After initial investigations, ten suspected terrorists remained detained at the end of 2014. Security agencies continued to pursue leads throughout the region to garner additional evidence. As of the end of 2014, no trial dates had been announced.

In October, the Constitutional Court ruled on a legal challenge over the jurisdiction, extradition, and treatment of the 12 individuals arrested for orchestrating the July 2010 al-Shabaab bombings following the World Cup, upholding Uganda’s detention of the suspects. One of the victims of those attacks was an American citizen.

The UPF cooperated with the United States on several terrorism-related cases. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation maintained strong relationships with the UPF.

The United States and UPF continued to try to operationalize a 2013 Memorandum of Cooperation to modernize its criminal records management system to replace the outdated system currently used to identify criminal and terrorist suspects. In addition, while the U.S. government provided the UPF substantial counterterrorism training, the UPF lacked training in tactical operations, incident command, cybersecurity, handling of suspects, and crime scene management.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Uganda is a member of the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG), a Financial Action Task Force (FATF)-style regional body. In February 2014, Uganda made a high-level political commitment to work with the FATF and ESAAMLG to address its strategic AML/CFT deficiencies. In October, the FATF noted that Uganda had taken positive actions by establishing its financial intelligence unit and issuing guidance to reporting entities.

In 2014, Uganda made some progress on implementing the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA), which passed in 2013, including the appointment in August of an interim executive director of the Financial Intelligence Agency (FIA), which under the AMLA would be responsible for monitoring and regulating remittance services and wire transfer data. The FIA was not fully established at year’s end, however. Once the board of the FIA is fully constituted, the agency will receive reports from financial institutions on suspicious financial activity. The Bank of Uganda asks local banks to report suspicious transactions, but there is no clear implementation mechanism for enforcement or investigation of potentially suspicious activity. The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the UPF maintained responsibility for investigating financial crimes. However, the CID remained understaffed and poorly-trained, with only limited ability to investigate and prosecute money laundering violations. The AMLA also does not capture Uganda’s large mobile money sector within its regulatory framework.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2014 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume 2, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes

Regional and International Cooperation: Uganda is a strong force for regional stability, security coordination, and counterterrorism efforts, and is an active member of the AU, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, the East African Community (EAC), the Partnership for Regional East Africa Counterterrorism (PREACT), and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, and as such is a strong force for regional stability, security coordination, and counterterrorism efforts. Uganda contributed troops to AMISOM to counter al-Shabaab, and continued to pursue the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in coordination with the DRC, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. In January, UPF and the Somali National Police Force signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance cooperation between the two forces to include training, equipment, and intelligence sharing. Additionally, as a member of the EAC, Uganda signed a regional counterterrorism strategy with other member nations in April that provides for greater counterterrorism cooperation.

Countering Radicalization to Violence and Violent Extremism: Ugandan authorities have shown some interest in partnering with the U.S. government and Ugandan Muslim leaders to conduct more systematic and targeted outreach within the expatriate Somali community in Uganda, particularly since Somali youth living as refugees are often targeted for recruitment by al-Shabaab.