Sunday May 18 2014

Church security still lax despite terror warnings

Worshippers being checked before they enter

Worshippers being checked before they enter Watoto East Church on Jinja-Kampala highway recently. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA 


Despite last week’s terror alert issued by the United States embassy in Kampala indicating that terrorist were targeting to attack churches in Kampala, security at various worship centres remains lax.
In the statement, the US embassy warned that terrorists were planning to hit Kampala, mostly churches frequented by expatriates. In the same message, it also requested its citizens living in the country to stay away from worship places.

Last week, the head of Interpol, Mr Asan Kasingye, called on church leaders to install CCTV cameras in order to monitor activities of church goers and suspected intruders.

“We are in collaboration with security authorities to ensure safety of all people within our premises, including our congregation, staff and guests,” reads a press statement released by Watoto Church last week.
The Parish Priest of Christ the King Church in the city centre, Msgr Gerald Kalumba, said the church employs local people, who are less competent to handle such high profile security risks like terrorism, to guard the premises. Dressed in uniform without metal detectors, the men just monitor who enters and leaves church without checking them or their baggage.

Ms Joan Twizere, a member of St Andrea Church, Kigowa near Ntinda observed: “There was no security check at church on Sunday but we have police that guard our cars.”

At All Saints Cathedral Church in Nakasero, the entrance is manned by security personnel. There are also many posters explaining the security steps the congregation and visitors should take while at church. At Rubaga Miracle Centre, there is a check point restricting access at the entrance of the church compound. Private security guards with metal detectors and other gadgets check all visitors and vehicles before accessing the premises.
At Bethel Healing Centre, off Namirebe Road, security is handled by a police woman in uniform. This is not the case at the Seventh Day Adventist church on Gaddafi Road.

Mr Samuel Mwebaza, the communication officer at the Seventh Day Adventist Church said they would beef up security at the premises following the terror alert.

“Police is always available on Saturdays during prayers, where we also restrict entry of vehicles. All our churches are now going to have CCTV cameras,” Mr Mwebaza said. But there was no security check at the time of the Sunday Monitor’s spot visit.

Mr Fred Enanga, the Police Spokesperson, said: “Church authorities should adopt some measures to ensure security of their worshippers.” “We have a mobile Police inspection team to ensure that measures are being taken seriously at all public places and they work hand in hand with the Anti-terrorism Unit,” he added.

On July 11, 201O Kampala was hit in twin terror attacks on soccer fans watching the World Cup final at Kyadondo Rugby Club in Lugogo and Ethiopian Village Restaurant in Kabalagala. Somalia based al-Shabaab militants claimed responsibility.