By Andrew Bagala
Kampala — Government has finally bought closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras to be installed in all urban centres, borders and highways.
The first batch of the 5,552 CCTV cameras needed for the nationwide system were delivered by Huawei, a Chinese firm.
Police spokesperson Emilian Kayima yesterday confirmed that the first batch of 900 CCTV cameras under the Uganda Police National CCTV Network Expansion Project are already in store.
Mr Kayima said the cameras will be imported in phases for the two-year project and a National Command Centre will be constructed in Naguru, a Kampala suburb, starting in October.
He said the installation commenced on July 15 and they have so far done 20 kilometres of the required cabling in the city, with Kampala alone planned to take 3,233 of the CCTV cameras.
“We have already started in Kampala Metropolitan Police Area. We are laying fibre and installing CCTV cameras. After Kampala Metropolitan Police Area, we shall move to other major towns, highways and important installations across the country,” Mr Kayima said.
In March last year, following the death of Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi, President Museveni ordered the Finance ministry to provide funds for buying the CCTV cameras.
However, his directive was not implemented until the death of Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga in June.
In May, Parliament passed a Shs60b supplementary budget to finance the first phase of installation of the cameras.
Police wanted $124m (about Shs458b) for the implementation of the project.
The money is to be allocated in three instalments of $17.4m (Shs64b), $61m (Shs225b) and $45m (Shs166b) if the CCTV cameras are to be installed in all major towns and busy highways across the country as per the President’s directive. Police and Huawei experts have already started installing the CCTV cameras in different parts of the Kampala Metropolitan Police Area. The CCTV cameras can ably detect number plates of vehicles and faces of suspects, with Mr Kayima saying the project will address surveillance, traffic, investigation and operational capabilities.
“Detecting and deterring crime will become very effective. This will help us in having quick and effective prosecution,” he said.
Mr Kayima also said the police will partner with Umeme, Uganda National Roads Authority and urban authorities since the project involves laying of fibre network and evacuation.
Uganda’s first CCTV camera project was installed on the route used by dignitaries during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2007.Later, police expanded it to a few city suburbs.
Police say the project will reduce the deployment pressure on the Force with current strength of 43,000 officers.
This is just half of the number needed to meet the United Nations standard ratio of one officer to 500 people.
Most of the officers have been deployed on highways, installations and roads in urban areas.
But CCTV camera experts cite challenges with using the new system to effectively identify suspects using the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) database.
The experts say NIRA only captured the front of faces and fingerprints of people in their database, but forgot the sides of faces, making it difficult to identify suspects since the CCTV cameras capture only facial sides.
Police said they have also started the construction of the national CCTV coordination centre where they will monitor and store all activities captured by the cameras.
Despite security personnel excitement over the CCTV cameras, Unwanted Witness, a privacy rights defender organisation, has criticised the installation of surveillance cameras without a law on privacy and data protection. The organisation said government could use the collected data to harass its critics. A proposed law on privacy and data protection is still in Parliament and is yet to be tabled for debate.