Worry when noisy MP Sekikubo also needs to be taught a lesson
Posted Thursday, January 10 2013 at 02:00
Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo was driving home on Monday night when plain clothed men who claimed to be police officers surrounded him and said they had instructions for his arrest.
After a brief standoff, the men were joined by uniformed police officers who forcefully arrested the MP and dumped him at a police station. His colleagues and associates say he was assaulted during the arrest. There is, as yet, no independent corroboration of the alleged assault.
On the day after Ssekikubo’s arrest news emerged that the police had delivered to Parliament a formal request to interrogate the MP and others accused of allegedly inciting violence and hatred towards the state.
According to the police letter, the MPs were required to appear on Friday, yet Ssekikubo was arrested and maybe assaulted four days earlier. So why was there a rush to arrest the Lwemiyaga MP?
To understand the context of that question, one needs to go back to the earlier arrest, on Christmas Eve, of MPs Chris Baryomunsi and Mohammed Nsereko.
Nsereko, in particular, was arrested after a stand-off with the police at his home. After Christmas and three days in jail, plans were made to bring him to court. A little bird whispered to us that morning that not only would Nsereko be charged in Tororo, where the offence allegedly took place, but he would also spend the weekend in prison.
That is exactly what happened. A government source our people spoke to that day said it was “important to teach Nsereko a lesson” by keeping him in jail for as long as possible, and try to humiliate him in any way for his persistent attacks on the government.
Incidentally, the Observer newspaper reported yesterday that one of the police officers that arrested Ssekikubo allegedly told the lawmaker: “You, we are going to deal with you. Why are you fighting the state?”
So it does not really matter whether the MPs committed a crime or not; if the government agents are to be believed – and there is little reason to doubt them – the most important thing is to teach pesky MPs a lesson.
That lesson is one that many journalists learnt a long time. There was a time, not too long ago, when it was almost impossible to find a newspaper editor in their offices on a Friday.
They tended to disappear on Thursday evening and reappear on Friday evening or later. Being arrested on a Friday, regardless of why and when the problematic story had been published, often meant spending the weekend in jail.
The police officers had perfected the art of manipulating the process such that you appeared in court very close to closing time – and after the banks, which closed at 4pm those days – had long battened their hatches.
With banks staying open longer and more forms of payment available, these days there is a variant to this trick.
Sometimes, as almost happened when a colleague and I were charged, a police officer will try to steal a key document from the file, or have a defective charge sheet to ensure that you are kept overnight – or longer – until your file is sorted and you can be charged ‘properly’.
Depending on how long you have been “disturbing” the state, you might suddenly find all your old sins being thrown at you when you are finally cornered. Bank loans might be called in, traffic offences dusted off.
Another little bird, for instance, says Ssekikubo has over a dozen pending charges – most of them election related – in Rakai and Sembabule. Nsereko also has unresolved issues with a financial transaction gone wrong at one of the local banks in town.
How long before those are dusted off? More importantly, how long before the state adopts more violent means to teach critics a lesson?
MPs have been suitably aghast at the treatment of their colleagues in recent weeks. They would have learnt nothing and forgotten nothing if in standing up for their fellow MPs they remained silent for the thousands of no-bodies currently learning lessons from the state.
Some might say we need not cry for the likes of Sekikubo, with their close ties to the state (remember his UC car license plates) and their own misdemeanours (remember his pistol whipping incident at a polling station). I disagree. When a head teacher decides to punish his teachers the pupils had better be at their best behaviour!