By Andrew Irumba
Kampala: Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga has revealed that police cells around the country are so crowded to the extent that suspects are suffocating to death.
Enanga noted that Police cells are holding more inmates than their capacity resulting into suffocation, leading to death. The holding capacity of a police cell may be less than 50, but more than 100 suspects are detained at various cells across the country. Every time a police station or division conducts a crackdown on suspected criminals, at least over 100 people are arrested. There are times when such operations are conducted at the same time in all police divisions within Kampala City where the number of suspects rises to over 1000. For example, on June 30,2018 Kampala Metropolitan police commander, Moses Kabugo Kafeero and his deputy Denis Namuwoza, launched a three-day crackdown on suspected criminal gangs operating in Kampala City, Wakiso and Mukono districts.
The operation led to the arrest of 1,355 women and men who spent several days in cells until the screening zeroed to 436 who were arraigned in different courts. The crackdown was conducted in all the 18 police division that make up Kampala Metropolitan including Kampala Central Police Station (CPS), Katwe, Kasangati, Jinja Road, Kira Road, Kira Division, Kakiri, Kajjansi, Wandegeya, Old Kampala, Kawempe, Kabalagala and Entebbe. On March 8, 300 suspects were arrested in a crackdown on criminals in Katwe. They were detained at Katwe police station and Clock Tower Police Post.
Three suspects allegedly suffocated to death inside Katwe and Clock Tower police cells but their bodies were swiftly rushed to Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) morgue. Two of the victims were identified as Bogere Omong alias Warrior and David Nene who were all residents of Katwe Kinyolo zone.Police only acknowledged Bogere’s death saying he collapsed inside Clock Tower cell and died on arrival at Mulago hospital where he had been rushed for treatment. Bogere’s cause of death was never revealed. He was a Tanzanian national and a casual worker at Arua Bus Park. Last week, a man identified as Moses Abiriga died in a police cell at Kiira Road police under unclear circumstances. Abiriga’s relatives claim that he was arrested last week but a few days alter the police told them to go to Mulago Hospital and check on him because he was very ill. However, when they reached Mulago Hospital and asked medics around for Abiriga, they were instead directed to the Kampala Capital City mortuary, where they found his body. However, the relatives were shocked when police stopped them from removing the Abiriga’s body from the mortuary. When the relatives when back to Kiira Road police to demand for answers about what had killed Abiriga and why the police were not releasing the body, they got shocked to learn that the police had stealthily transported Abiriga’s corpse to Yumbe districts for burial.
Uganda Human Rights Commissioner Chairman, Meddie Kaggwa, says he rarely visits cells but said there is a staff of UHRC who heads a team that makes visits to various police and prison facilities although he was out of the country at the time. However, Police spokesperson, Fred Enanga, says it is very wrong for a police station to keep a number of suspects exceeding its holding capacity. He says that anything goes wrong on any of the suspects, the station commander would be liable. Enanga says police station commanders must make routine visits to Police Posts purposely to collect suspects in custody and take them to the main station that has enough detention space. He adds that even division commanders must also check whether police stations within their territory are not crowded. “The police station must routinely check Police Booths and Posts to collect suspects. They must find out which suspects need to be transferred. A police post can only hold people when it is too late and suspects cannot be transferred in the night,” Enanga says.