Government has pressed charges against hundreds of people for violating the lockdown imposed to contain the coronavirus, Daily Monitor has established.
The suspects, who are currently on remand at different prison facilities across the country, include lactating mothers, young people and the elderly.
Their arrest came after Mr Museveni directed law enforcers to ensure the culprits are brought to book.
Ugandans have been staying home since April 1, when President Museveni imposed a 14-day lockdown.
In Lira District, about seven children are locked up at Kwania government prison, after being born to mothers accused of breaking the law.
The mothers were among 60 people that appeared before the Grade One Magistrate’s Court in Lira District last Thursday for allegedly flouting the President’s directives.
Five suspects pleaded guilty to the offence and were remanded to Kwania prison together with those who claimed to be innocent.
Prosecution states that on April 9, the accused; knowingly or having reasons to believe that it was likely to spread infectious disease, unlawfully or negligently operated their businesses and gathered people.
The offence, the prosecution said, contravenes Section 27 of the Public Health Act 1935 and rule 9 (1) (ii) of the Public Health Control of Covid-19 rule no: 52/2020.
Isaac Enyang, one of the accused persons, told court that at the time of his arrest, security operatives found him seated at a food store inOjwina Division, where he was working as a “blocker”.
Harriet Angom, a mother who appeared before court with her one-year-old baby, said she was arrested while sweeping her compound on Wednesday morning.
Joan Odur told court that she had stayed with her two children for two days without food, something that prompted her to start selling cassava chips.
“For those who pleaded not guilty, you have the right to apply for bail but as of now, I am exhausted and I am not ready to hear any bail application. This case is, therefore, adjourned to April 30,” Grade One Magistrate Susan Adedo said.
Lira Municipality mayor Mike Ogwang Olwa told Daily Monitor that he has received cases of people being arrested at their homes.
“I’m very disappointed at the way people are being arrested. What is this? This is not what the President said. Food vendors should not be chased….Without the community, the security cannot work,” he said.
In Teso, more than 48 people have been remanded to Soroti prison for allegedly defying presidential directives on Covid-19 by the area Grade One Magistrate, Ms Sylvia Nvanungi.
They included 40 members of Teso intercessors prayer warriors, who were on Monday sent to prison until April 14, when they make their second appearance in court.
Eight people were also arrested in Moruapesur ward, Eastern Division in Soroti Municipality, as they were drinking and playing cards.
In West Nile, Mr Peter Guchina, the Koboko Grade One Magistrate, said 18 people that committed crime during the lockdown were presented before court and have been sentenced to community service.
“Most of them committed minor offences such as theft. They will clean Koboko Municipal Council, Koboko District headquarters, police headquarters, Koboko Boma ground and hospital,” he said.
In Kigezi Sub-region, several people have been arrested for defying the set guidelines although nobody has been taken to court.
The regional police spokesperson, Mr Elly Maate, said police in the area have concentrated on cautioning the offenders before releasing them on police bond.
He said the suspects include religious leaders and Christians, people who lock themselves in bars to take alcohol, those driving private cars and people walking during the curfew time. “The implementation of the presidential directives in Kigezi is going on smoothly as nobody has complained of being brutalised orforced to pay some money for his or her release,” Mr Maate said.
The Elgon police spokesperson, Mr Rogers Taitika, said they have about 100 pending court cases over violation of presidential directives on the coronavirus.
“We have about 100 cases awaiting court and we also impounded almost 80 motorcycles from errant cyclists. We have employed detectives to help in the gathering of intelligence because foot and vehicle patrols have not been so much effective,” he said.
Mr Taitika said boda boda riders have remained defiant and have continued to carry passengers from one destination to another without fear.
He revealed that some residents are also attacking police officers and Resident District Commissioners (RDCs), who are on the forefront of enforcing the directives.
“In Sironko District, the RDC’s vehicle was pelted with stones. We have since arrested the ringleader and we are hunting for others[who are still at large],” the police spokesperson said.
Mr Job Wambaka, a resident of Mbale Town, however, said the directives are being enforced only in urban areas. “In rural areas, boda boda riders are carrying passengers and other people with private cars are using them without permission,” he said.
Ms Annet Nambozo, another resident, said police should increase its manpower and patrol vehicles.
In Budaka District, police have warned residents against violating the presidential directives on curfew.
Mr Martin Orochi, the area RDC, said some few people have continued to disobey the directives especially the boda bodas.
“We don’t want to arrest people and take harsh action, but it seems we shall be compelled to do so to teach people some discipline,” Mr Orochi said.
At least eight people were arrested in Budaka after being found moving during curfew hours, the RDC said.
The Kiira police spokesperson, Mr Abbey Ngako, said since the curfew begun, they have arrested quite a number of people in Jinja Town.
Suspects with minor offences were given bond. However, those who defied the President’s directives are still in police custody, waiting to be arraigned before court after the Easter holiday, he said.
Mr Ngako added that those whose vehicles and motorcycles have been impounded during the lockdown will receive them after the 14-day period upon presenting their logbooks.
Mr Joseph Banona, a boda boda rider at Nile Stage in Njeru, said stopping them from working after 2pm has affected their operations because most families prefer sending them to the market during evening hours.
The officer-in-charge of Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Department in Namutumba District, Ms Naluzi Rashida, said 20 people – all boda boda operators – have been remanded to Kaiti prison after they found carrying people.
“We arrested them and impounded their motorcycles which will be released after government declares the country free from Covid-19,” she said.
Locals, however, say remanding and impounding boda bodas has caused more suffering.
The Magada Sub-county chairperson, Mr Mathias Mufude, urged police to pardon boda boda riders who were arrested, “just as President Museveni did to taxi drivers.” He said the riders have families to take care of.
A senior prison official, who claimed anonymity, said all new prisoners are being sent to Kiyunga Prison in Luuka District, Busesa Prison in Iganga and Kirinya Prison in Jinja District.
“Since the new directives were issued, about 30 were remanded to Iganga, 10 to Luuka and 45 to Jinja. Those three are isolation centres whereby after 14 days, we shall be advised whether they can mix with others or not,” he said.
In Gulu, 95 people including 11 police officers have been remanded to Gulu Main Prison for allegedly causing harm and violating the curfew imposed by the government.
The Ntoroko District police commander, Mr David Katunda, said: “Following the latest presidential directives, we have arrested about five boda boda riders who were found driving beyond 2pm and were all granted police bond.”
Compiled by Bill Oketch, Simon Peter Emwamu, Fred Wambede, Robert Muhereza, Mudangha Kolyangha, Isaac Otwii, George Emuron, Philip Wafula, Denis Edema, Ronald Seebe, Felix Warom, Rashul Adidi & Ivan Tolit
In Bukedea District
Meanwhile, police in Bukedea District are holding more than 15 people suspected to have been drinking in the bushes.
The suspects were rounded up in areas of Kangole Sub-county, Kabarwa, Malera, and Kotiokot.
Mr Ezra Tugume, the District Police Commander, said police conducted the operation after locals continued to defy the Covid-19 guidelines. He said the suspects will be produced in court soon.
“On many occasions, we have tried warning people to stop being in congested places, stay home but they have defied,” Mr Tugume said.
Mr Ben Ecaat, the Aligoi Sub-county chairperson, said locals are not valuing their lives.