Gunfire rocks Lira as prisoners protest
Posted Friday, February 15 2013 at 02:00
Lira Central Prison was the scene of running battles between prisoners and the police on Wednesday as the former protested long detentions on remand.
The usually quiet facility turned chaotic when prisoners chased away warders and broke into stores, some attempting to escape.
Overpowered, the warders sought police help and later back-up from the army, with the two other security agencies arriving just in time to push back some inmates who were already on their way out.
After lobbing tear gas canisters into the facility and firing in the air for close to two hours, the riot police and warders then stormed into the prison, beating up some of the inmates.
Our reporter saw several prisoners beg for leniency, saying they were not part of the demonstration. Despite orders by the Regional Police Commander, Mr Richard Aruk Maruk, that the beatings stop, warders were seen clobbering the prisoners.
For hours, the prison and its environment reeked of tear gas. Whereas the Daily Monitor could not establish the exact number of injured prisoners, many were seen crying—probably after inhaling tear gas.
Small boxes were seen strewn all over the prison with pieces of cloth littering the facility. The door to the store was wide open, after it was forced open.
Lira Prison houses more than 680 prisoners with more than 400 of them on remand. Most of these are capital offences that can only be tired in the High Court.
The North Kioga Police spokesperson, Mr Manshur Suwed, said the prisoners became unruly after a judge indicated that he would on Wednesday listen to 50 cases and instead only heard six.
According to Mr Suwed, the demoralised inmates then returned to mobilise others to riot while those who resisted were attacked. He said the prisoners had also complained of congestion.
Ms Susan Akany, the resident district commissioner, who visited the prison, said there were plans to relocate some of the inmates to Oyam Prison and decongest the facility.
She also appealed to courts to speed up trial of prisoners, saying more than 400 inmates on remand showed a weakness in the justice system.
Police chief Aruk said the Force would keep watch at the facility until normalcy returns. Efforts to speak to the local prosecutor were futile as his phone was switched off.
Mr Frank Baine, the prisons spokesperson, acknowledged that some prisoners had been held on remand since 2008 and were not appearing on the cause list, sparking the strike.