U.S.-backed Uganda Regime's Police Attack Students Opposing Bill Barring Public Protests

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Student leader Adeke Anna Ebaju

[Op-Ed: Global]

Loaded gun held at students' head.

The General Yoweri Museveni dictatorship has launched a brutal attack on students and youths, who are actively campaigning against his repressive regime – Reports Adeke Anna Ebaju, Makerere University’s Guild president, who herself has been repeatedly arrested for her pro-democracy activism.

Ugandan Students from the country’s biggest University-Makerere and other Universities, who were protesting against a new repressive bill banning public protests as well as the closure of Makerere University, have been brutalized by the police.

Most of the student Guild leaders, including the Guild President, have been arrested and some of them beaten and tortured by the police. Uganda is going through a period of political turmoil, which has seen a sustained clamp-down on human rights and any form of pro-democracy activism. A new bill, the Public Order Management Bill has been passed in the country’s parliament, which seeks to ban political gatherings, including private meetings of a political nature in people’s own homes.

Students warned to stay out of politics:

Throughout the last few weeks, police operatives have been making phone calls to student leaders warning them not to join on-going protests by political and civil society activists. The students were also planning to demonstrate against the closure of their university by the government.

They ignored the police warnings not to protest, and set out to deliver a Petition to Parliament about the oppressive Public Order Management Bill. A few days later, the students went further to the join other activist groups who were planning to organize mass protests in the capital city Kampala and other cities of Uganda.

It was during this meeting that the students were surrounded by heavily armed police, and brutally arrested, beaten, and attacked with teargas. Pepper and other chemicals were sprayed in the eyes of some students.

Limbs broken and heads battered:

One of the students Harris Justus Akampurira had his leg broken after Police forcefully entered the room where the students had gone while trying to evade the pepper spray. The police men stepped on him until he started bleeding and was rushed to hospital.

Another student Thomas Kayanja, was hit with a baton and bled profusely from a head wound. This is not the first time that Makerere University and other institutions of learning have been closed in Uganda.

Throughout the country, Universities, colleges and schools are struggling to maintain their educational functions, as the regime of General Museveni increasingly fails to finance crucial areas of national development.

The government’s finances have been thrown into utter chaos by the mismanagement of the economy and the entrenched corruption in government departments and public service institutions.

The situation has become critical after several Western donors decided to suspend aid to Uganda, after millions of donor money were stolen in the office of Mr. Amama Mbabazi, Gen. Museveni's Prime Minister.

Closure of Makerere University Makerere University, which is the biggest Public Institution of Higher Education in Uganda, remains closed after lecturers and staff went on strike demanding better salary remunerations. In the past 10 years, the University has been closed about six times for the same reason.

This time round, the students are standing by their lecturers, demanding that staff requests for better pay be met by government, so that the institution can re-open for normal studies. During the protest, students held placards with the inscription “Defending my right to Education-Open my University now” and “Impunity of Government must End Now”.

But, in a country where liberties have increasingly become limited and state brutality the norm, the Police justified their harsh actions on the premise that such demonstrations are un lawful despite the fact that students were unarmed and peacefully demonstrating.

Loaded guns pointed at students heads:

During the latest arrests, students were detained at a Kampala suburban police station, notorious for its torture methods. In the middle of the night, at 1.00am, they were forced to kneel in the cold outside and told to close their eyes or else be shot dead. After that loaded guns were placed on their foreheads as they were told to walk to different trucks.

They were then separated in small groups and taken to various police stations around Kampala where they were interrogated. The lawyers acting on the students' behalf managed to get them Police bond after they had not been produced before court for over 50 hours, despite the constitutional requirement of detention for not more than 48 hours.

Student Thomas Kayanja, whose head was hit, was detained longer, as the police pressed charges of Assault on him, claiming that he attacked a policeman. To hide evidence of police brutality, the Officer Commanding the (Criminal Investigation Department) CID at Wandegeya police station insisted that Kayanja’s bloodied shirt be washed.

But when the blood-marks could not be concealed, she ordered that a new shirt be brought for him. The bloodied shirt was confiscated by the police.

The political situation in Uganda is very worrying, especially in regard to the violations of the citizens’ constitutional rights and freedoms. Freedom of expression has been confined within defined legal precincts, with each law defining it more restrictively.

The Public Order Management Bill (POMB), which has been passed by the country’s parliament, an institution dominated by General Museveni’s supporters, makes unlawful a meeting of three or more people who discuss politics without permission from the Inspector General of Police.

Even before the bill can be signed into law by General Museveni, massive arrests are already being carried out against all those wishing to critically express themselves against the dictatorial regime. Recently, High school students in the district called Katakwi in Northeastern Uganda were expelled for writing on the black board the word “FDC”, which stands for’ Forum for Democratic Change’, the main opposition political party.

General Museveni mocks University lecturers:

The government of Uganda has been quiet about the torture of the students and worse still has refused to open the University. General Museveni, the regime leader, insists that the striking University lecturers should go and "rear goats" in the countryside, and stop arm- twisting his government for a salary pay rise.

However, the students maintain that they will continue to do all in their power to ensure that the University is re-opened, and they have expressed utter disappointment at the regime’s decision to purchase more and more anti-riot artillery and tear gas meant to punish the students, instead of finding money to pay their lecturers.

The Guild Leadership of Makerere University believes that the Government has embarked on an agenda of killing off all the country’s institutions, and the education sector is the latest victim in this incomprehensible assault by the Kampala regime.

The priority for General Museveni, say the student leaders, seems to be equipping his military, instead of caring about the overall development of all the country.

 

Adeke Anna Ebaju is the Makerere University Guild President and political activist in Kampala Uganda

 

 

 

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