Not all prisoners would feel free and delighted to share their experiences in prison which revolves around torture and many more ill acts. This however, is not the case with Robert Isiko Abbas.
One Saturday night, I got a call that renowned hospitality boss was being welcomed home from prison at a massive party. It was Abbas’s birthday as well.
It was a cold night. The clouds had pitted Kampala which had had a week of dry hot winds. The mist, darkness and above all coldness, was real.
Reaching Lit Lounge.
I was taken straight to where Abbas was seated who welcomed me with a glass of Champagne. It was to his disappointment that I turned down the offer as I told him I was okay.
The whole place was messed up with loud music as well as loud cheers and screaming from the guests who were happy to welcome him back from jail.
On approaching him for an interview, I realized that he was already set, only waiting for me.
His arrest and conviction ordeal
“I have worked in the hospitality industry for over 12 years. I opened Cayenne, Gatomato, Panamera, Fame, now I am here at Lit.
I try to do my best to give what I should, there are errors here and there as human, but at least I do my best,” he started the narration.
A long the line, way back at Fame in 2017, I happened to be involved in something that I didn’t really know and this was to deal in what is termed as unprotected species; Ivory.
Truth be told, I had never seen how ivory looked like, I dint know how what ivory was but atleast I knew it is got from huge elephants.
I had a colleague who was my good friend. He was our accountant. He was a foreigner and he was dealing in Ivory but because he was my friend and we were working together, we used to have some business talks.
One Wednesday morning, he called me, “Abbas, I want to see you, please.” I drove to Fame, my work place then. He asked me to help him drop his friends somewhere and innocently I accepted because I knew I was dealing with a friend.
I wish he had told me what I was carrying! As we drove to a certain destination I was stopped by three security personnel, fortunately I knew two of them. They looked at me and one of them said, “Abbas, you went to this?”
He looked at me and told me to remain calm and I did exactly that. The colleague I was driving jumped off the car and ran away. That’s when I realized that I was in danger.
I also realized that we were going to meet the so called ‘buyers’.
The Police then ordered me to get out of the car and open the boot. On opening the boot, I saw black bag which had a product. At that moment I had nothing to do, no one knew where I was going or where I was.
I cooperated very well with the security personnel.
These officers asked me, “do you know what you are carrying? This is Ivory and its illegal, you are going to face the law.” At that moment, I knew it was just something simple, but after reaching CPS, I saw people coming with cameras, it dawned on me that the situation was tougher than I thought.
They later took me to Fame and my home place for a search, fortunately they found nothing and I kept on telling them that I was innocent.
I was kept as CPS for two weeks; no statement, no nothing and they started refusing my people from seeing me. I started demanding for court.
While at court, I was sent to Luzira on remand for a week then later granted bail. I started moving to court for a year; I had no peace, I lost a lot of money in the process, I lost touch with my family, it was a tough time for me. Honestly,that’s the time I wished I was in prison.
Around September 19, I appeared in court for judgement and I was convicted for 15 months. This was supposed to have a fine of a million shillings but the Magistrate looked at me and said, “I am not going to give you the fine; we want you to be punished.”
I was taken to prison; I thought it was a joke, I was seeing myself-nearing the grave. The first day I thought it was a joke, the second day I said no, I have been arrested!
“No one would wish to be there, people die in prison, it’s not a secret my dear. Many people lose lives in prison on daily basis,” he narrates with a low spirit.
I became a history teacher there from September to the last month of my term in jail which was November 2018. The guy who got me into that mess ran away after getting information that I was arrested.
“I do not regret going to prison, if prison meant no torture for inmates, it would be a good place for learning. I have learnt a lot and trust me I am a different person today. Before I went to prison there are things I used to think matter to me, but now not any of them mean anything,” he concluded.
Asked whether his arrest was staged, he said he still doesn’t have any idea up to now, but since government is against poaching, Abbas believes it’s one of the toughest measures under taken by the concerned authorities to curb the vice.