I want to bring to your attention the deteriorating human rights situation in Uganda.
President Yoweri Museveni’s regime is increasingly resorting to extreme means to silence the voice of the people of Uganda who are demanding the opportunity to end his 34 years of rule and his progressively brutal regime.
The People Power Movement is a non-violent movement. It brings together Ugandans from different political parties, professions, regions, and religious groupings to unite in peaceful protest against a military dictatorship which violently restricts any form of democratic opposition. The movement is demanding the independence of the judiciary, the police force, the army, the press as well as the Electoral Commission. We are struggling to ensure that the people of Uganda have the opportunity to decide their own future, for the first time since Uganda’s independence from colonial rule.
Anyone who associates with me has become a target for kidnap, imprisonment, torture and death at the hands of the Uganda security forces. These violent forms of intimidation are orchestrated mainly by elements serving in the Police, Internal Security Organisation – ISO, Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence- CMI, Military Police, as well as the Local Defence Unit- LDU.
On 24th February, 2020 a supporter and leader in the People Power movement was murdered when a police truck struck her in Nakawa Division, Kampala. At 8:00am, Ritah Nabukenya, who was aged 28, was a passenger on the rear seat of a motorcycle. She had just dropped her young daughters aged 6 and 4 at school. Because RITAH and her rider were dressed in ‘People Power’ attire, they were easily identified as members of the group.
The driver of the police truck swerved to hit the motorcycle and eye witnesses later confirmed to the media that the police truck had deliberately targeted Ritah.
She was pronounced dead at Mulago National Referral Hospital, and the motorcycle driver sustained injuries.
Police officers who were moving in the patrol vehicle immediately took up positions around the scene with weapons and ordered the witnesses not to take any photos or videos of the incident.
Our demands for CCTV footage from the incident have not yielded anything and the police spokesperson said that CCTV cameras were not operational at the time of the killing.
Ritah was laid to rest on 25th February, 2020. On our way back from the funeral, thousands of young people lined the roads of the various towns we passed through to express solidarity with the movement and to recognise the sacrifice that Ritah had made.
When we got to Nansana town, uniformed police officers as well as elements of the Local Defence Unit (LDU) opened fire with live rounds on the crowd which had gathered peacefully.
Dan Kyeyune, who was aged 33, was shot through the eye and died instantly. At least two other people received severe gunshot injuries. Yet again, the police claimed that the CCTV footage of the incident was unavailable.
These two murdered people are in addition to Asuman Walyendo (shot dead on 19th July, 2018 in Bugiri district), Yasin Kawuma (shot dead in Arua on 13th August, 2018), Vincent Sserugaya (shot dead on 23rd August, 2018 in Gomba), Kalende Yusuf (deliberately knocked by a police truck on 27th August, 2018 in Luwero), Hannington Ssewankambo aka Sweet Pepsi (brutalized by the military on 20th September, 2018 leading to injuries which he would succumb to in October 2019), Lukoma Stephen Ssalongo (shot dead on 7th June, 2019 in Buvuma District), Michael Kalinda aka Zigy Wyne (kidnapped and severely tortured before dying on 4th August, 2019), and Hakim Ssekamwa (deliberately knocked by a police patrol truck on 6th August, 2019). There are several other unreported cases where supporters have been abducted and murdered. In all such cases, there has been a clear lack of interest in conducting investigations by state agencies!
In addition to these extra-judicial killings by the state, security operatives have kidnapped several supporters, tortured them and subjected them to all manner of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. To date, our coordinator Johnbosco Kibalama is still missing, having been abducted in June 2019.
The general levels of repression have increased. Although the Presidential Elections Act, 2005, permits intending presidential candidates to carry out nationwide consultations ahead of nominations, police and the military have blocked me from reaching out to the people of Uganda for these lawful consultations.
We have so far made attempts to consult in eight districts and all of them have been met with extreme brutality against me and our supporters. We are not permitted to carry out any public meeting. Recently on January 31st police fired teargas and live bullets to break up a thanksgiving ceremony where I was due to speak.
Many of our supporters have been arrested and kept in prisons for days, weeks or months.
The regime has become paranoid to the extent that they are arresting people who associate with our movement even when they are not directly involved in our activities.
On 28th February, 2020 Julian Friesinger, a PhD student from Germany was arrested by military operatives in Lira District. He was arrested together with two of our coordinators who he had gone to interview for his research project. The two Ugandans (Adonyo Michael and Oguttu Nicholas) were kept in military detention for three days while being beaten. Julian whose devices (phones, laptops, etc) and passport had been confiscated was interrogated by the Internal Security Organisation, before leaving the country.
In another case, Moses Bwayo, an independent journalist and film maker was arrested alongside eight people with whom I was working on a music project. They were kept in detention for several days and are now facing charges of unlawful assembly whose particulars include singing a song subverting the government of Uganda.
Last week, more than 50 of our supporters were being held in different prisons across the country. Some of whom were arrested for merely wearing our attire. Our supporters Denis Senono (Den City) and Bobi Young were held under military detention. Whereas Bobi Young is still detained, Den City was released; his body bearing torture marks. He reported that he was injected with an unknown substance by security operatives and now lives in fear for his life.
While this is going on, President Museveni who has been in power for 34 years has been desperately moving across the country campaigning for a seventh term with sacks of tax-payers money. He is hoping that he can buy the support of a people, who he has not only impoverished but has nothing left to promise or offer to them. Those who will not be persuaded will be intimidated, tortured and even murdered.
With the political space shrinking further and the human rights situation deteriorating, the economic condition has continued to worsen. There is little provision of basic services to the citizens. The state of education and healthcare have continued to decline. The levels of unemployment as well as poverty are on a sharp increase. Corruption and misuse of public resources are at an all-time high.
The young people of Uganda continue to be excluded by the power structure whose only interest, is enriching themselves, and keeping power at whatever cost.
As we head towards the 2021 General election our demand for free and fair elections is unequivocal. We are committed to ending President Museveni’s brutal regime of blood, plunder and national shame.
We call upon the world and the international community to continue standing with the people of Uganda in these very difficult times.
We shall certainly overcome!
People Power – Our Power
Kyagulanyi Ssentamu Robert