I won’t rest until our tormentors are brought to book – Kassiano

Sunday September 2 2018

Released. Arua Municipality MP Kassiano Wadri

Released. Arua Municipality MP Kassiano Wadri was on Monday released on bail, together with 32 Opposition politicians and activists. PHOTO BY ALEX ESAGALA  

By Solomon Arinaitwe

Take us through the events of August 13 when you were arrested in Arua
We arrested on the 13th which was a Monday. We were arrested at around 7pm while we were in Hotel Royale. By the time we were arrested, we had finished campaigns because we had started at around 3pm and finished by 5:50pm.
While we were in Hotel Royale where my planning office was, we assembled in the lobby of the hotel to prepare for a meeting to chart a way forward for the training of polling agents. Then hell broke loose. We were surprised that we were surrounded and sporadic gunfire erupted. They also fired tear gas canisters into the lobby. And so members scattered and scampered for their lives. The batch of security operatives who entered into the hotel were from Special Forces Command (SFC).
They indiscriminately started beating people with clubs and gun butts and kicking whoever they would come across. As we scampered, four of us hid in a bathroom. The second contingent of security that came in was from police who were also armed to the teeth with guns and sticks. They started kicking open all the doors that they could come across and rounded up people.
At that time, MPs Paul Mwiru and Gerald Karuhanga were hiding in another room. They were either in a toilet or a bathroom. They first went and pulled them out. When they pulled them out, they came to our door. We were four in the room. They wanted to resist the door being open and I told them please open this door. When they opened the door, I was the first one to come out of the bathroom and I told the police that I am here.
When the police saw me, there were some who were itching to beat and there were others who knew me. They started smiling and told me to sit and remove my shirt. Others wanted to beat us but the DPC told them not to beat us. The DPC was acting professionally because he knew me and he did not want to be seen torturing people in my presence.
In the same team, there was the RPC, Jonathan Musinguzi. When they came and told us to march, I was the first person to tell them that I was armed and I withdrew my pistol and gave it to them. When I told them that I am armed, one policeman came and asked how I had got a gun.
I told them that I have owned my pistol for the past 20 years. The computer number of my gun is in Kibuli and I licence my gun every January in Arua Police Station where I am directed to licence it and the District Police Commander (DPC) and Regional Police Commander (RPC) know about it.
From there, I handed over my gun to the RPC. I told them that I acquired my gun when I was still a commissioner. I have used my gun responsibly and I have never had any record of gun misuse.

Do you think that the fact that you had a gun may have influenced the charges that police had initially preferred on Bobi Wine of illegal possession of firearms?
Bobi Wine was in a different hotel. And I am happy the management of Pacific Hotel has said ‘if you are talking of guns, talk about them elsewhere and not from this hotel’. You saw what was in the papers where they had AK47s and rounds of ammunitions. That Bobi Wine had all those guns with all that ammunition, really!
They got embarrassed because at first they wanted to charge him with terrorism but they realised that they could not succeed because the management of the hotel distanced themselves. If they wanted to come up with any charge, the hotel management should have been there or even the room occupants.
Even when they had a charge and caution statement against me, they wanted to charge me with treason and terrorism probably because I had a gun. But later they realised that my being in a possession of a gun was not outside the law. I have legitimately and legally owned of this pistol for years. Just like many of these colleagues of mine here have pistols registered. So they got themselves stuck and I am sure they have also got themselves stuck with Hon Kyagulanyi who did not have a gun.

Do you have plans to help your supporters who were brutalised by security operatives?
One of the activists from Kampala, who had been in Arua was injured. I am going to visit her. There are those who need medication. More importantly, after all this has settled, certain individuals who meted this torture on us must be held accountable. I do not think I will close my mind on the errant security officers who tortured us.

When you were granted bail, one of the conditions was not to go to Arua for three months?
First of all, I am the representative of the people of Arua Municipality. In order to exercise the elective role, you must be seen to air the concerns of the electorate. The fact that I have been banished from Arua for three months is not only a disservice to me but to the people of Arua. I can never be an effective representative if I cannot get in touch with my people.
I have already shared this with my lawyer. I will allow the dust to settle and prepare to challenge this decision of court. They need to revisit their decision. If they are saying that the people will come up again when they see me in Arua, what about on Monday? When I was granted bail, didn’t the people of Arua come out to celebrate. They were harassed by security operatives? Was I there? I was not there.
And so it is not about my presence in Arua. The people in Arua are concerned that their leader is being mistreated.

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