Arua violence: Counting the human cost

Police and UPDF soldiers disperse demonstrators in Kampala on August 20 following the arrest of Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine and Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake over the Arua fracas. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA

At least five people have been killed and scores are recovering from severe injuries, some with gunshot wounds.

At least 33 people have been charged with treason and many are still held without charge, while about 150 people are on remand following the violence in last month’s by-election in Arua Municipality.

The violence erupted in Arua Town on August 13, following allegations of the President’s convoy being pelted with stones by supporters of then Independent candidate Kassiano Wadri, who would as a result be arrested and win the election while in jail.

It was the final day of campaigns for the by-election and President Museveni was in town to campaign for Ms Nusura Tiperu, his National Resistance Movement (NRM) party’s candidate.

Dr Kizza Besigye had also travelled to campaign for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party’s Bruce Musema and a group of politicians, including Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, were campaigning for Mr Wadri.

The deaths

President Museveni and the ruling party on the one hand, and the Opposition on the other, have given varying accounts of what exactly led to the violence that has dominated conversation in the country over three weeks later.

In recounting the human cost of the violence, Saturday Monitor sums up the stories of those killed, injured, tortured and those arrested as a result of, among other things, the skirmishes that followed.
Yasin Kawuma: The driver of Bobi Wine, was the first casualty of the violence shot in Arua just outside the hotel in which his boss was boarding. The circumstances of his shooting have not been clarified and the government now says it has launched an inquiry into the same, despite the various players and President Museveni coming out with definitive positions on what happened. It is difficult to say whether the investigations will make any progress.

Samuel Ssekiziyivu. Five days later on Sunday August 19, Ssekiziyivu died on the spot in Mityana Town when policemen opened fire on a taxi that was ferrying football fans heading for Buganda Kingdom Masaza (County) Cup tournament in Mukono District. The policemen were attempting to quell civil strife as the residents of the town protested the manner in which the area MP, Mr Francis Zaake, had been tortured by soldiers in Arua.
Mr Zaake spent more than two weeks in bad shape in Lubaga Hospital and after some incidents, was allowed to fly out to India to receive further treatment.

Bobi Wine had also been tortured during a drama-filled arrest in Arua that left hotel doors broken and many others beaten to pulp. He also flew out to the US to seek further treatment.

Lawrence Jjingo. He was the third casualty, who was also shot in the taxi in Mityana and eventually lost the battle to his wounds in hospital. Another five who were shot in the incident are recovering in hospital.

Racheal Ayebazibwe. The fourth victim of the violence related to Arua, Ayebazibwe succumbed to bullet wounds at Victoria Hospital, Bukoto, Kampala. She was admitted to the facility after she was hit by a bullet when police and the military were quelling riots in Kyebando, a Kampala suburb on Sunday, August 19.

The protesters were calling for the release of Bobi Wine, who had been incarcerated at Makindye Military Barracks where the army general court martial remanded him after charging him with illegal possession of fire arms. She had just completed studies for her degree at Kyambogo University.

Vincent Sserungaya. The 38-year-old a boda-boda cyclist and a resident of Bukalagi, Gomba District, was the fifth known victim of the violence related to Arua. Gomba is the birthplace of Bobi Wine and upon his arrest, residents of Kanoni, the seat of the district, rose up in a demonstration. It was in the process of quelling it that Sserungaya was shot dead by a policeman.

The injured

Apart from the tortured suspects arrested in Arua, there were several other people who sustained injuries both in the West Nile town and others in Kampala and Mityana towns.

During the military raid on Mr Wadri’ supporters that have since been accused of smashing the rear screen of one of the presidential vehicle, five people were shot and injured during the fracas.

Two of them - Michael Abiriga and Gilbert Eyotre were treated at Rhema Hospital, a private facility in Arua Twon, where they underwent surgery. Three others - Innocent Asega, Isaac Egama and Philliam Anguyo, were treated at Arua Regional Referral Hospital.

At some stage, their lawyer, Mr George Williams Alenyo, wrote to President Museveni asking for financial support to fly the five victims to South Africa for further medication. However, this newspaper has learnt that these five victims were discharged from hospital last week and are recovering from home.

“Abiriga was discharged from hospital and is now at home. He still has a lot of pain in the chest where he was shot and yesterday [Wednesday], he went back to hospital (Rhema) for review. He can now walk, eat and talk,” said Mr Robert Apango, his brother.

From the Kampala chaos, teenager and student Aisha Nabulumba is undergoing treatment at the Mulago National Referral Hospital, after she was shot on August 20 on her way home from Al-Fahad Vocational Institute in Katwe, a city suburb.

“People who attempted to carry me were beaten... one man was caning me as I lay on ground,” Ms Nabalumba told this newspaper last week.
A bullet that lodged in her stomach after being shot in the buttocks has since been removed after a surgery.

The four survivors of the Mityana shootings have since been discharged from hospital. One was treated in Mityana and discharged after one night, whereas three were at Mulago hospital.

“They have all been discharged from hospital and are now in their homes,” said Mr Nobert Ochom, the Wamala regional police spokesperson.

The tortured

Apart from Mr Zaake, who was never arraigned in court and remanded, 33 suspects arrested in Arua were last week released on bail by the Gulu High Court.

Mr Zaake was reportedly dumped at the gate of Lubaga Hospital in the wee hours of Friday August 17. Later, President Museveni, in a statement, said the legislator had escaped from lawful custody in Arua.

Ms Night Asara, the FDC women league chairperson for Arua District is one other torture victim whose condition, when she first appeared before the Gulu Chief Magistrate court, worried Ugandans.

Lawyers said she was bleeding from her private parts after being severely tortured in detention. Two other women, Jane Abola and Sauda Madada were also allegedly tortured and injured during arrest.

Also badly injured was Shaban Atiku, who was reportedly the driver of Mr Wadri and Stephen Gamba, a resident of Arua were also reportedly tortured and injured.

Mr Wadri on Thursday briefed this newspaper about the conditions of these five people following their release on bail.

He said, apart from Ms Sauda Madada, who is still undergoing treatment at a facility in Kampala, which he did not want to reveal, the rest are back in their homes but on medication prescribed to them in hospital.

“Asara (Night) is in immense pain but at home. Atiku (Shaban) is not my driver but a villagemate and he is now in Arua resting at home on advice of doctors from Arua hospital. I also talked to Abola (Jane) who is also taking medicine from home (Kiryandongo),” Mr Wadri said.

He, however, said Ms Madada was still vomiting blood. He said, Ms Madada was hit by a cartridge of the bullet that killed Kawuma because they were sitting in the same vehicle, and she was then tortured in detention.
“She was admitted in hospital here in Kampala and I was with her yesterday (Wednesday). She still vomits blood and doctors are doing their best to ensure she gets out of this,” Mr Wadri said.

The legislator, who is banned from stepping foot in Arua for three months as part of his bail conditions, said Ms Asara has since suffered hearing impairments as a result of torture.

The arrests

Following the repeated protests in downtown Kampala and Kamwokya suburb, police arrested 103 suspects in the metropolitan area.
“We arrested 103 people from Kampala metropolitan area and they have all appeared in court, were charged and remanded to Luzira prison,” said Mr Luke Owoyesigyire, the Kampala Metropolitan police, spokesperson.
He said they were charged with several offences, including unlawful assembly and malicious damage to property.

In Mityana, 23 people were arrested but 18 of them were taken to court following a screening exercise by police in which five were found not to be connected to the protests.

Mr Norbert Ochom, the Wamala regional police spokesperson, said all the 18 have since been remanded on charges of inciting violence and malicious damage to property.

Also arrested and held incommunicado for several days is Mr Bobi Wine’s bodyguard, Eddy Sebuufu, aka Eddie Mutwe.

The High Court in Kampala was on Tuesday told that Mr Sebuufu was to be arraigned in the Gulu Magistrate Court to face treason charges in relation to stoning of the presidential motorcade.

Mr Ssebuufu will be the 35th suspect to join the charge sheet, which already includes his boss Bobi Wine and four other MPs.

High Court Judge Musa Sekaana was informed about the new development by State prosecutor Peter Tusubiira following a habeas corpus issued to the Chief of Defense Forces, Gen David Muhoozi, Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence and Attorney General to produce him on that day.