Members of Parliament spent five hours yesterday doing on-spot visits to four locations they suspected to be safe houses in Kampala, allegedly used by the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) as torture chambers.
Their visit followed three weeks of investigation into the alleged torture of civilians by ISO led by Col Kaka Bagyenda, who has been summoned and is expected to appear before the same committee today to explain what happens in these facilities.
Igara West Member of Parliament Raphael Magyezi said Col Kaka is also expected to explain why the MPs cannot access these safe houses.
“The issue of safe houses is not contested anymore. But again, why don’t you want to allow the committee of the human rights to access these houses. The Director General should be ready to answer all these questions tomorrow (today),” Mr Magyezi said.
Gen Elly Tumwine, the security Minister, told the committee two weeks ago that Parliament must go through the Attorney General to invite col Kaka.
But Mr Magyezi said: “The Director General has been invited. If he doesn’t come, it will be contempt of Parliament. We don’t need to go through the Attorney General to summon anybody to the Committee. This Committee has the powers of High Court.”
During their visit to a safe house in Kyengera on Nkonkonjeru Road, they were denied access. This facility is about 500 metres off Kampala-Masaka road in Kyengera Town.
It is heavily guarded with soldiers, security cameras placed in different corners of the concrete fence, and peeping through the fence, soldiers have erected tents in a big compound with mango and palm trees.
When the legislators reached its closed gate, one of the soldiers, who identified himself as Vicente Kalibala, told them through a small opening of the gate lock that they were not welcome.
“I am the chairperson of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee and we are here to do an on-spot visit to this facility which we understand is a safe house,” Ms Egungu Janepher Nantume Egunyu, told Kalibala through the gate- hole lock while bent, trying to have an eye contact with Kalibala.
In response, Mr Kalyebala said: “I salute you Madam. But we don’t open for whoever comes here.”
She was later joined by Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, Kawempe North MP Latif Ssebagala and Igara West MP Raphael Magezi to try and convince Kalibala to open.
However, he (Kalibala) insisted that they must first be cleared by his boss, Col Kaka, to visit the facility.
After one hour of haggling, the MPs gave up and drove to another building in Nalukolongo, where there were two Local Defence Unit (LDU) officers and a soldier in a storied house that looked deserted. It is on Kampala-Masaka road, directly facing the main road.
The MPs asked the LDUs to enter but they were told to first get permission from Nateete Police Station.
From Nalukolongo, they drove to another building in Kabowa, which they later found out that it was someone’s residence. The residents identified the owner as Amooti, who was not at home at that time. The visit ended with External Security Organisation [ESO] offices in Nakasero. The MPs said they were told the facility was a safe house.
The soldiers on guard were caught unawares by the legislators’ impromptu visit. When the MPs asked if the facility was being used as a safe house, one of soldiers went inside the gate and called his colleague with nametag Kitara at the rank of a sergeant. Sgt Kitara said he would inform his boss about the visit first.
When Sgt Kitara returned, he said his boss would only allow the chairperson of the committee to enter. But her colleagues told her not to enter alone, saying it would not be safe for her.
MP Kyagulanyi insisted and asked Kitara to tell them the use of the facility and who their boss was.
Sgt Kitara said: “You can only get that information from boss.”
Sgt Kitara later told the MPs that they should first get permission from the Security minister to get access to the ESO offices.
Ms Egunyu said they would write a report capturing everything.