In Uganda The Police Work Like A Criminal Organization

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Dr. Kizza Besigye

[Op-Ed: Uganda]

BACK FROM NAGALAMA POLICE CELLS- Police impunity rages on

I had a working lunch appointment today, Friday 24th January 2014; so I prepared to leave home (Kasangati) at about 12.30pm.

When we reached the Western gate of my residence, we found a police patrol vehicle [parked] right across the gate. We hooted and the policemen who were sleeping inside the vehicle woke up and got out of the vehicle but ignored our demand to free our exit. All the policemen were busy making calls.

Realizing that I was getting late for my appointment, I got out of the vehicle and went to the gate to physically demand that the policemen to get out of the way.

The policeman, who seemed to be in charge of the group, shouted at me ordering me back. When I didn't back off, he pulled out a grenade-throwing pistol and threatened to shoot me with it; even though it wasn't loaded!

After an exchange with this police officer, I moved back towards the house to make some phone calls. It was at this time that I saw the familiar group of policemen (the occupants of Police van UP 1931) charging towards me from the opposite direction, towards the Eastern entrance. They immediately grabbed me, roughed me up and dragged me towards Eastern entrance. Their van soon arrived and I was bundled into it and off it sped towards my usual place of detention, Nagalama Police Station in Mukono District.

As we sped through Gayaza, we met a convoy with a police lead car blaring it's siren to clear the way. As they passed, I recognized a Mercedes Benz limousine with EAC number-plates. Our van driver drove like a madman all the way to Nagalama. At the Station, it was the usual routine; removing belt, shoes, all items in pockets and onto the cells. I found 10 other inmates in the cell.

The putrid smell in the cells was definitely worse than the last time I was there on 10th January 2014. Two of the inmates were old men (more than 70 years) who looked frail. I was keen to find out why they were there. They informed me that they had been in the cells since 14th January 2014. Apparently, they were involved in selling a piece of land to Hon. Margaret Nantongo Zziwa, the Speaker of EALA (East African Legislative Assembly) that turned out not to be theirs.

Hon. Zziwa had just visited the station to make sure her money is recovered from the suspects! An LC 3 Councilor from the same area was arrested today over the same land case and we entered the cells together.

There is a young Munyankole man who says he has been in police cells for 3 weeks. Nagalama is the fifth Police station he's been transferred to. He had been working at a bar where he is suspected to have stolen some items. There was another Munyankole man called Byaruhanga who has been in the cells for two weeks. We had been a farm hand at Hajj Jumba Masagazi's home. He's accused of stealing a motor from the farm.

There was a young man who said he was arrested for being suspected of stealing a Kamunye tyre. He had been handcuffed into a motorcycle at the police post where he was arrested, that had no cells for one day. He was then transferred to Nagalama where he's been for five days now. There was another young man, Obbo from Tororo, who was brought to Nagalama after 3 days detention at a police post (on handcuffs). He's accused of defilement and had been at Nagalama for another four days.

While we were inside, we heard that negotiations were going on between his parents (who had arrived from Tororo) and the mother of the girl that was allegedly defiled (raped). At about 6pm, we heard that a deal had been struck; three million would be paid to the girl's mother. It was not clear what the police settled for. The boy was then released.

At about 8pm, I was removed from the cells and told that I would be given a Police Bond. It's then that I was told that I had committed a traffic offence and the traffic officer of Nagalama would take a statement from me! I made a statement as indicated above and I was freed. All those whom I left in the cells are likely to stay in the cells until next week since it's now a weekend.

What is clear to me is that the Uganda Police is now working as a criminal organization. The Police is mandated to, among others, "preserve law and order". The Constitution of Uganda is very clear on the protection of personal liberty. Article 23 (2) (3) (4) and (5) prohibit the Police to act in the above ways. Even if I had committed a traffic offence in Kasangati as alleged, why would I have to be taken to Nagalama for a day? Why are police cells market places where ransoms are extracted?

I was very disappointed that as a former Ugandan lawmaker and EALA Speaker, Hon. Nantongo Zziwa can, knowingly, let old frail men stay in police cells for nearly two weeks in order to try and recover her money from them.

Surely, she knows that it's illegal to do that. In any other country, such behavior would lead to instant severe sanctions. Unfortunately, we [live] in an era of a rogue regime and impunity.

Fellow citizens, we must put a stop to this. Let's all pull together and say that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Do whatever you can, from wherever you are, using whatever you can! Together, we shall overcome.

Kizza-Besigye. 24th January 2014.

(Posted on Dr. Besgiye's Facebook page)

Dr. Besigye is a leading opposition figure in Uganda who is widely believed to have won the 2011 and 2006 presidential elections which were rigged in favor of the incumbent, Gen. Yoweri Museveni.




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