After one week of not knowing where Democratic Party (DP) stalwart Annet Namwanga was being held, I decided to mount a physical search by visiting the Joint Anti-terrorism Task (JATT) headquarters in Kololo Summit View and later the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) headquarters near Mulago. All our previous efforts had yielded no useful information. We spoke to several security officials but they were tight-lipped about Ms Namwanga.
At JATT, the officer there simply brushed us off saying: “We also read about her in the papers.” Obviously, he was not willing to share information. On account of his rank (Captain) he was probably not authorised to talk. I contacted the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) where an official told me that he would “try to find out more information” and get back to me. I never heard from him.
We then contacted a senior CMI official. That is when we learnt that Namwanga was arrested from her place of work at Mulago in a joint operation with the police.
Namwanga is wife to Lawrence Kiwanuka, a journalist who was hounded into exile by persistent persecution. He is the immediate past president of the US Chapter of the DP and still sits on the branch executive committee. He is also a member of my campaign’s fundraising committee and the Democratic Policy Study Group (DPSG).
Namwanga is a quiet, unassuming and reliable person. On occasion she played the role of receiving funds from the US members on behalf of our party. The transfers, though regular, did not involve very large sums of money because most of the transactions are online via our websites.
We now know that the CMI handed Namwanga to the police but we do not know for how long they had held her and where. No matter what crimes Namwanga is alleged to have committed, as a citizen of Uganda, she is entitled to protection by the Constitution.
By holding her incommunicado for one week, the security forces have violated her constitutional rights. Her right to due process has been violated. She has been denied access to a lawyer and to members of her family. I also requested to be allowed to visit her in detention but my request was denied.
We condemn in the strongest terms Namwanga’s illegal detention and the uncouth manner of her arrest reminiscent of Idi Amin’s dark days.
We demand that she should be released immediately. If there are any charges against her, then she should be produced before a competent court immediately.
We are also concerned that Namwanga’s arrest may be connected to her role in my campaigns and her being a spouse to an exiled dissident and strong critic of President Museveni and his regime. The timing and manner of Namwanga’s arrest is clearly intended to strike terror in the hearts of opposition activists.
Namwanga must have her day in court. All allegations by the state must be tested in open court. DP will stand solidly with her and provide the legal support to ensure a vigorous defence against all charges. We believe Namwanga is innocent and talking about her alleged crimes in the media by the security forces is prejudicial to her case and undermines her right to a fair trial.
We call upon our members not to be intimidated. We must intensify our campaign efforts. We must innoculate our people against fear. We shall remain steadfast and unbowed. These are the last kicks of a dying regime and the birth pangs of the New Uganda we seek to build. A Uganda based on the rule of law and not the arbitrary law of rulers.
Mr Mao is the president Democratic Party