Stripped: FDC's Zaina recounts horrid ordeal

Saturday October 24 2015

Fatuma Zaina Abalinabyo.

Fatuma Zaina Abalinabyo. photo y Abubaker Lubowa  

By Esther Oluka

“On that day, October 10, other FDC (Forum for Democratic Change) officials and I set off from Kampala to Rukungiri District at about 6.30am. We normally go as a team whenever FDC holds activities. I work as the secretary of environment and natural resources in the party.

As we moved in our convoy, something happened. Just after the car in which Wafula Oguttu (the Leader of Opposition in Parliament) was drove past, we saw two policemen carrying a spike. We all thought they were trying to get it out of the way but to our surprise, they dumped it right in the middle of the road instead.

The driver of our car where Patrick Amuriat, FDC representative of Kumi District, was also seated managed to dodge it. There was another car coming from the opposite direction, from Mbarara to Kampala that slid into the swamp after it failed to successfully dodge it. Some of the cars in our convoy behind us also rammed into one another trying to stop suddenly.

The police roadblocks
We all got out of the vehicles. The cars that got damaged included that of NTV, Geofrey Ekanya - MP for Tororo County, and one other car carrying FDC members. We were only left with three vehicles in good condition. We all agreed to proceed with these.

Ahead, we found more police roadblocks. Again, we all came out from our respective cars and asked them what was happening. They responded that we were not allowed to go to the campaign. When we asked why, they said we were breaking the law.

One of the officials we were travelling with, a lawyer, asked them which law we were violating so that we could know how to go about it. They replied that we were breaking the Constitution. The lawyer again asked them to specify which one, reminding them that every Ugandan had the right to move freely within the country.

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They just said they had an idea where we were going and that we would get problems if we proceeded.
That was when Mr Oguttu said since they had detected a problem where we were going, then it was only wise that police come along to protect us, but they said they would not.

The arrests
Amid the talks, we started joking with them, telling them that they should join FDC. But suddenly, in a blink of an eye, everything changed, they started arresting us. It was as if we had not been interacting with them. It must have been around 10.30am.

Since I was the only woman there, I assumed they would not dare touch me. I looked on as my male collegues were arrested, asking some of them to leave me with their items such as the mobile phones for safekeeping. Little did I know what was awaiting me.

The nightmare begins
As soon as I placed the items I was holding in one of our vehicles, I heard a police officer shout, “Arrest her, she is also among those people.”

I tried to run away but one of the policemen caught me and I fell down. More men joined him. They grabbed my legs and in the process, the pants went off completely. There was a Fuso vehicle which was parked nearby. I went and held onto it tightly but the policemen succeeded in pulling me off and once again, I was captured. In the process, my top went off too.

Probably out of shock that I was now almost naked, the policemen decided to dump me on the ground. Embarrassed, I quickly got up and ran to hide beneath one of the cars that were being towed.

Some policewomen came and threw my clothes back at me from my hiding place. I struggled back into them but remained put for about five minutes.

Then, I heard a policeman shout, “What are you waiting for, arrest her.” A policeman lowered himself and pulled me out from underneath the car and another round of struggling started.
In the process of repeatedly grabbing me and I falling down, my clothes again came off. Even when I requested them to let go so that I could go to the police truck by myself, they did not listen. I heard one of the policewomen actually say that “but she is becoming naked,” and a policeman shouted back “Who cares? Undress her, after all she is going to be making news.”

Up the pickup, naked
By the time, I was put in the vehicle, I was already naked and they started saying that I cover myself. By that time, I was completely annoyed so I replied, “I do not want to be dressed; you have decided to undress me, let it be. You wanted to see me. I’m not going to dress up. You have already embarrassed and humiliated me.”

They tied my hands with ropes. On our way to Nsanga Police Station along Masaka Road, one of the policewomen started beating me with her hands. I was helpless because my hands were tied. She only stopped after some people in the vehicle who were arrested along with me intervened.

On arrival, I was asked to make a statement but I refused. I told them I could only do it if there was a police officer to record it in Lusoga. I preferred to do it in my mother tongue because that was what I was comfortable speaking at the time.

After they failed to find the police officer, they released me and other officials at around 6pm. One of my colleagues rushed me to a clinic in Ntinda where I received first aid before going home.

The aftermath
My husband, of course, felt very bad about what happened to me. His family questioned why he allowed me to join politics. But that incident has affected me in various other ways. I still feel humiliated over that incident. You cannot possibly know what it feels like being undressed for everyone to see until it happens to you. That incident still keeps playing in my mind to the extent that it has affected my sleeping patterns.

I still have pain allover my body, especially in my back and joints. I have bruises on my wrists and legs. I’m also getting threats. On Tuesday, two days after the incident, someone stopped me on Luwum Street (Kampala city) and said, “We know you and we shall deal with you accordingly.”

Then, there are people who said I had planned the whole thing, that I was paid. Really? A married woman with children in her right senses cannot do that. For now, I keep indoors most of the time for security reasons.

If I had the power, I would have all those policemen who brutally mishandled me resign. What pains me the most is that I was embarrassed in public. Almost everyone who was there saw my nakedness. I was ashamed. But I am trying to put all that behind me and move on. But, nothing will deter me. I shall go on with the struggle for what FDC stands for including equality and respect of opinion.”

Fact File
Zaina is 27 years old. She holds the position of secretary of environment and natural resources in FDC (Forum for Democratic Change).
She attended Nuru Islamic Primary School in Iganga, Kawami Vocational Secondary School in Mpigi and Pride Academy in Kampala. She holds a certificate in laboratory technology and a Diploma in business administration.
She is married with two children; a four-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son.

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