Sunday April 1 2012

Police arrest man fundraising for nodding disease patients

By Agatha Ayebazibwe


The police have stoked the ire of NGOs fighting nodding disease by arresting a volunteer who was fundraising for the victims of the disease.

Mr Mwanika Mwanika, a volunteer at the National NGO Forum, was on Tuesday night arrested and detained at Central Police Station for five hours over what the police called “criminal trespass” after he was found with a banner, photos of a nodding disease patient and a box that had wordings of “nodding disease” that he intended to use for collecting donations.

Mr Mwanika told Sunday Monitor that the police officers accused him of being an A4C supporter, working against government and also said his actions aimed to tarnish the image of government ahead of the Inter-Parliamentary Union that started yesterday in Kampala.

A police officer reportedly told him that the nodding disease pictures were not welcome anywhere around the hotels. “Let them (IPU delegates) read from newspapers if they really want to find out about nodding diseases but don’t go displaying the pictures,” police reportedly said while confiscating the items.

Awareness drive
The women’s movement together with NGO Forum recently launched a drive to raise funds and create awareness for children suffering from nodding disease. The activists were on Tuesday given a platform by a local band, which performs at Kampala Serena Hotel, to speak to the audience.

However, the fundraising did not take place after police arrested Mr Mwanika and confiscated his banner, pictures of nodding disease victims used for fundraising and an empty box with inscriptions, “Please Donate to Keep a Nodding Child Warm.”

“The syndrome has come to light, government should stop hiding it from the public but rather take a bold step to address it,” said Ms Sandra Komuhiindo, the communication and information assistant at Uganda Women’s Network, one of the organisations running the campaign.

The arrest seemed to have been uncalled for, as police chief Kale Kayihura ordered the release of Mr Mwanika and apologised for the incident. Charges were dropped but the pictures and other material remains in police custody, while the band has been prohibited from mentioning nodding disease during their show.

Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Ibin Ssenkumbi said he was aware of the case but referred this newspaper to the police spokesperson. Mr Asuman Mugenyi and his deputy, Judith Nabakooba, however, could not answer our repeated calls.