Monday June 30 2014

IGP: Entebbe airport at the mercy of terrorists

Civil Aviation Authority officials display their skills at the Police Training School Kabalye in Masindi

Civil Aviation Authority officials display their skills at the Police Training School Kabalye in Masindi District at the weekend. The officers were told to ensure that they protect the airports and airfields from terrorist attacks. PHOTO BY ANDREW BAGALA 


Masindi- Security readiness at Entebbe International Airport does not measure up to the emerging threats, especially terrorism, the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura, has said.

“We are seating on a time bomb. At night, there are no security lights. Someone can shoot without our officers seeing him,” Gen Kayihura said during the passing out of 49 Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) officers at Police Training School in Masindi District at the weekend.

Last week, police issued a list of names of nine suspected al-shabaab terrorists and rallied the public and security agencies to be on the lookout and block the suspects from entering the country.

The police chief, however, said the airport has either obsolete equipment or its completely unavailable, describing the security situation there as being at God’s mercy.
Emphasising his dismay at the situation, Gen Kayihura said: “I think we don’t have serious terrorists.”

In 2010, terrorists struck Kyadondo Rugby Club and Ethiopian Village Restaurant in Kampala, killing at least 78 people.
The incident re-energised the country’s fight against terrorism.

Gen Kayihura said Entebbe uses old technology to screen passengers, has few and overstretched officers, no security and a dilapidated fence which allows multiple points in the airport.

“Sometimes, the walkthrough metallic detectors breakdown and when they were tested, they cannot detect a person carrying a pistol,” he said, adding: “We are trying to secure the Office of the President, Prime Minister’s and the airports. I also request CAA to invest in technology.”

Police also said earlier, they had registered cases of intrusion into the airport, citing at incident when a stranger walked up to a military plane without being noticed.
Gen Kayihura said other airfields in the country equally face lax security and where at higher risk.

“We once received reports of a group that wanted to hijack planes from aerodromes like at Kajjansi and ram them onto government facilities, but we quickly deployed officers and it never happened,” he said.

The Aviation Police Commandant, Mr Doroviko Awita, said his overstretched force has to rely mostly on physical judgment to detect criminals.

Mr Bamwesigye said most of the officers who were recruited had served in military operations in Iraq.

“We only rely on dogs and human beings to seize the drugs but our dogs are aging and need replacement,” Mr Awita said, adding that the machines at the airport cannot detect bombs like those made of plastic.

The head of human resource managment at CAA, Mr Fred Bamwesigyesaid they were aware of the loopholes at CAA and the training was part of the strategies to fill the gaps.
“The new officers recruited were selected because of the interagency security advice. We are trying to seal the gaps that were identified,” Mr Bamwesigye said.

CAA deputy spokesperson Vianney Luggya said the procurement process to acquire modern equipment was underway.

“We have met with contractors to procure such equipment,” he said, adding that the lighting problem was partly because of resources constraints but that since the area to be light was large, they are doing in phases.

“So far we are done with car park area. The next will be the perimeter fence,” he said.