By Frank Kamuntu
Kampala: Following the raid on National Unity Platform (NUP) head offices in Kamwokya, a Kampala suburb by sister security operatives, a couple of party supporters, including juveniles were arrested and slapped with being in possession of military store.
These supporters, totalling to 44 including men and women were yesterday arraigned before City Hall Court Senior Grade One Magistrate Valerian Tuhimbise, who remanded them to Kitalya and Kigo Government Prisons.
According to prosecution side, on October 14, 2020, in Kamokya, Kampala District, persons who are not serving in any of the three armed forces [Uganda Police, Prisons & UPDF] of the country were found either wearing or in possession of uniforms or dresses bearing parts that have a close resemblance with the security agency’s uniforms.
The said attires that were found with NUP supporters reportedly had distinctive marks of the said armed forces’ uniforms such as lanyards, pips and berets in a manner that is most likely to bring contempt on that uniform.
The Court also alleged that the accused persons disobeyed presidential orders on prevention of Covid-19 pandemic by gathering in large numbers in Kamokya without observing social distance a threat to the virus transmission.
The accused persons who appeared in batches of ten people in court all denied the charges and instead accused police of allegedly acting on president Museveni’s ‘unlawful orders’, after the opposition mounted pressure on 2021 presidential candidate, Yoweri Museveni, which they claim is abuse of power entrusted to them by the constitution.
They told court that it’s the police officers who picked them from various places in Kamwokya and downtown before bringing them together in one place without observing social distancing among other SOPs. “We were all in different places around Kampala and instead Police bundled us all together,our Lord,” they submitted.
The accused persons’ lawyers led by Anthony Wameli attempted to apply for bail but the Magistrate Tuhimbise told them that the numbers were very many and there wouldn’t be social distancing to avoid the spread of Covid-19.
Tuhimbise later remanded the women to Kigo Prisons and men to Kitalya prisons until October 23 2020.
Ever since the group was arrested, NUP president Hon Kyagulanyi Ssentamu backed by a number of human rights advocates have since accused the government of traumatizing Ugandans most especially in days of elections saying it’s a sign of dictatorship not democracy as President Museveni claims.
“Over 40 NUP members and supporters have been sent to Kitalya and Kigo prisons. Their offence? Supporting NUP and People Power! For dressing in red t-shirts, overalls and berets! For possessing red neckties and red umbrellas! For daring to speak out against a 35-year-old military dictatorship. For daring to side with our message of hope and liberation! For standing on the side of the truth! Over 140 other traders were arrested in Busega, Nateete and other places for selling People Power merchandise.
Let the dictator not sleep soundly. Let him not rejoice that these comrades are behind bars. Instead, LET HIM BE VERY WORRIED. His repressive hand is teaching us to be more deliberate, more courageous and more resolved,” Wine posted on his Facebook page.
A human rights activist, lawyer and Pan-Africanist Kato Mukasa also posted; “JUNGLE JUSTICE: Ihave watched this 17-year-old boy wailing, begging the soldiers to atleast shoot him dead instead of taking him back to prison. He says he was only putting on his red jumper (shirt) in the company of friends who were equally donning red. He was arrested for being in possession of “army attire.”
Now, since when did putting on red get criminalised in this country? Why arrest over 100 people and put them in one small cell yet you’re preaching social distance?Why arrest women, put them in a congested room for days without water, without sanitary towels? Why dehumanise our people?
Sadly, I have heard you are taking these innocent souls to the court-martial for putting on red berets, for wearing red shirts or for simply being found in the precincts of NUP offices. Ironically, as these people’s Rights are continuously being violated, many Human Rights Organisations are silent, the Uganda Human Rights Commission continues speaking through silence and hundreds of people are getting rounded up on a daily on tramped up charges.
We all know it’s the elections season and one party identifies self through the symbolic red but it’s extremely unfair to use the police and the army to cripple your challengers. It’s extremely unfair to arrest tailors going about their business. I do believe there are alternative ways to handle this matter without terrorizing our people. Fight a good fight and win without intimidation. Your politics is sick. What a country!