A section of Human Rights activists and victims of torture have petitioned the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Martin Okoth Ochola, demanding for an immediate intervention on the increasing cases of human rights violation and mishandling of the cases.
Led by Annett Nana Namata alias Mwafirika Mbarikiwa, one of the founding members of Women’s Protect Group Organization, petitioners asked the IGP to first tackle nine major issues which include; to transform police into a civil service to Ugandans not a ‘terror force’, make police operations known to the public, revive and redefine the role of the police magazine.
The petitioners also want the IGP and the inline authorities to ease accessibility to police offices, tackle corruption, reveal the “correct training of police personnel”, avail the reports for torture cases and work on prompt hearing of the cases.
Addressing the press at the Uganda Humans Right Commission shortly before delivering their petition to the IGP’s office at Naguru Police Headquarters, Namata said, “our rights are continuously being violated, people have lost their live especially during this pandemic but it’s disgusting that we have never had a voice of the IGP condemning this.”
Citing a number of victims whom she said have lost their lives due to torture like Tegu, a Makerere University student, Eric Mutasiga, Alfred Mwanga, Magret Nanyunja, Wilberforce from Budaka, Evlyne Namulondo of Jinja and others, Namata said that it is time for the IGP to come out and do something.
“He only waits to see people dying; when Hussein Walugembe took his life at Masaka Police Station as a result of corruption, it’s when we saw orders coming out for a short time. The IGP has to actively participate in this because a lot of other cases are happening outside and others go unreported,” she noted.
“We want to hear his voice in this, what is his stand on these claims, what is his response because Ugandans need help but they are afraid to speak out,” Namata stated.
A victim narrates his assault ordeal allegedly perpetrated by a security official
Isaac Nangoli, one of the victims whose case has not taken shape, is a businessman in Nakawa, Kampala District.
Following the countrywide lockdown which was imposed by the President in March as means of combating the spread of COVID-19, Nangoli found it difficult to transact money since movements had been restricted. He decided to ease the process by getting an online banking account at Diamond Trust Bank (DTB).
On April 8, 2020, Nangoli visited the DTB Equatorial Branch to work on the process. Unfortunately, he only had a passport yet the bank wanted his National Identity Card which he had not yet got.
“They advised me to go to NIRA offices, which I did. When I arrived at the offices, I found one officer called Isaac Oget whom I inquired from. Seeing his senior, Oget consulted about the ID issue from him on my behalf,” Nangoli narrated.
Instead of helping him, Nangoli alleges that the officer just assaulted him; “he called me a thief and assaulted me in the presence of his junior and when I told him that I would report the case to Afande Nakalema, he decided to knock me. I was saved by Interpol officials who later escorted me to Kololo Police Station, where I reported a case on Reference number: SDR/08/06/2020.”
Since that time, Nangoli says that his case has never moved out of the police desk and whenever he asks, the Officer in Charge of Kololo Police station tells him that the Captain who insulted him is so powerful, “even personally known to the president.”
“I can identify him by face but the O/C hides his name. He was driving a vehicle belonging to NIRA, registration number UBA 030X. Even the Interpol officers are my witness, I have since reported my case to the Deputy RCC of Nakawa and other authorities but in vain,” Nangoli lamented.
Namata said that the petition has been signed and contributed to by over 1000 people who have been tortured by security personnel especially police and LDUs, and these independently wrote their views; some sent messages via Facebook and other social media platforms.
“We started last week with the five-day hunger strike which has resulted into petitioning the IGP and if nothing is done, we shall continue to the office of the Minister of Internal Affairs,” she noted.
Assault, torture and violation of human rights by a section of security forces climaxed during the Covid-19 lockdown as per various news reports.
Asuman Luzige, the Mityana Municipality LC5 Chairman was assaulted by a section of security forces including some from the Uganda people’s Defense Forces (UPDF) and Local Defense Unit (LDUs). The incident was filmed and the video later went viral.
Likewise, the Mityana Municipality MP Hon. Francis Zaake was also allegedly assaulted by police when he was being arrested over distributing food to his people which was contrary to the COVID-19 control measures.
Namata noted that a study carried out by her organization found out that over 10,000 people had suffered torture during the pandemic lockdown between March and July.