I had a working lunch appointment on Friday, January 24; so I prepared to leave home (Kasangati) at about 12.30pm. When we reached the western gate of my residence, we found a police patrol vehicle parked right across the gate. We hooted and the policemen who were sleeping inside the vehicle woke up and got out of the vehicle but ignored our demand to free our exit. All the policemen were busy making calls. Realising that I was getting late for my appointment, I got out of the vehicle and went to demand the policemen to get out of the way.
The policeman who seemed to be in charge of the group shouted at me ordering me back.
When I didn’t back off, he pulled out a grenade-throwing pistol and threatened to shoot me with it; even though it wasn’t loaded! After an exchange with this officer, I moved back towards the house to make some phone calls. It was at this time that I saw the familiar group of policemen charging towards me from the opposite direction. They immediately grabbed me, roughed me up and dragged me towards the eastern entrance. Their van soon arrived and I was bundled into it and it sped towards my usual place of detention - Nagalama Police Station in Mukono District.
As we sped through Gayaza, we met a convoy with a police lead car blaring its siren to clear the way. As they passed, I recognised a Mercedes Benz limousine with EAC number plates. Our van driver drove like a madman all the way to Nagalama. At the station, it was the usual routine; removing belt, shoes, all items in pockets and onto the cells. I found 10 other inmates in the cell. The putrid smell in the cells was definitely worse than the last time I was there on January 10. Two of the inmates were old men who looked frail. I was keen to find out why they were there. They informed me that they had been in the cells since January 14.
There is a young Munyankole man who says he has been in police cells for three weeks. Nagalama is the fifth police station he has been transferred to. He had been working at a bar where he is suspected to have stollen some items. There was another man called Byaruhanga who has been in the cells for two weeks.
There was a young man who said he was arrested for being suspected of stealing a car tyre. He had been handcuffed into a motorcycle at the police post where he was arrested for one day (the station no cells). He was then transferred to Nagalama. There was another young man, Obbo from Tororo, who was brought to Nagalama after a three-day detention at a police post (on handcuffs). He is accused of defilement and had been at Nagalama for another four days. While we were inside, we heard that negotiations were going on between his parents (who had arrived from Tororo) and the mother of the girl he allegedly defiled. At about 6pm, we heard that a deal had been struck; three million would be paid to the girl’s mother. It was not clear what the police settled for. The boy was then released.
At about 8pm, I was removed from the cells and told that I would be given a police bond. It’s then that I was told I had committed a traffic offence and the traffic officer of Nagalama would take a statement from me! I made a statement as indicated above and I was freed.
Uganda Police Force is mandated to, among others, “preserve law and order”. The Constitution of Uganda is very clear on the protection of personal liberty. Article 23 (2) (3) (4) and (5) prohibit the Police to act in the above ways. Even if I had committed a traffic offence in Kasangati as alleged, why would I have to be taken to Nagalama for a day?
Fellow citizens, we must put a stop to this. Let’s all pull together and say enough is enough!
Dr Besigye is an Opposition politician