Several supporters of the National Unity platform (NUP), among them party leaders in Busia District, are said to have fled the country to Kenya fearing arrest and harassment.
Over the past few weeks, the media has been awash with news of arrests, detention and torture of NUP members in various parts of the country allegedly by security operatives travelling in ‘drones’ - unmarked vehicles in which people are being driven to unknown destinations.
Mr Geoffrey Kawo Mbulu, the Busia District NUP coordinator, at the weekend said NUP supporters started fleeing the country two weeks ago.
“Some of my colleagues and NUP supporters fled the country into Kenya fearing arrest, torture and detention without trial by security operatives. I have heard that several of our supporters are hiding across the border in Kenya,” Mr Mbulu told Daily Monitor in an interview at his home in Mugungu, Busia Town.
He named some of the fugitives as Mr Abdu Musa Were, the party district chairperson, and former party flagbearer for the Busia Municipal Mayoral seat, Mr Elias Kwamusi, the district secretary general and former Parliamentary candidate for the Samia Bugwe North constituency seat and Mr Hassan Mayende, the general secretary.
Mr Mbulu, who is also the Mugungu Village chairperson, said he was not in hiding because he committed no crime to rally behind Mr Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu, alias Bobi Wine, during the January 14 presidential elections.
He added: “I belong to Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) and when we did not field a presidential candidate, I decided to support Mr Kyagulanyi while some of our party members supported Mr Museveni (NRM) and Mr Amuriat (FDC); so there is no crime in having divergent political views and that is why I am not running away.”
“Despite my looming arrest, I won’t follow my colleagues into exile because I know what it is like to be a political fugitive in another country. I am over 60 years and can’t go to exile because I know the suffering involved when you are an asylum seeker,” Mr Mbulu said.
Relatives express fear
At Mr Were’s home in Arubaine Village, Busia Town, Daily Monitor beheld a huge padlock at the front door of his house.
His wife, who operates a shop on Customs Road, has also since kept away in fear after her husband reportedly earlier escaped from the captivity of armed plain-cloth security operatives, who wanted to arrest him.
Ms Shakira Yokonah, the fugitive’s younger sister, said her brother had fled for fear of being arrested.
“Men brandishing pistols and AK47 assault rifles rounded him (Were) up at one of the shops, but he was helped by a mob that had gathered during his impending arrest,” she said, adding that he fled through Sofia Village to an unknown destination.
“His phone numbers have been off since he fled from the security operatives and as a family we fear for his life because we don’t know where he is,” she said of the businessman who was selling cereals in Busia Market.
Ms Edith Nabwire, the mother, said her son was the breadwinner, adding that they are struggling to have basic needs such as food.
In Shamitumba Village, Dabani Sub-county, the family of Mr Kwamusi is living in fear, according to the wife, who declined to be named.
She, however, narrated that armed security operatives reportedly surrounded their house but they refused to open, adding that for that reason, they enter the house as early as 6pm.
In Nangwe-Madibira village, Ms Aisha Erumbi, the wife of Mr Mayende, said her husband left home two weeks ago after reportedly hearing that his name was on the list of 16 people, who were to be arrested in Busia Town.
Mr John Rex Achilla, the Busia Resident District Commissioner, said he was not aware of any planned arrests by security teams and that he was taking up the matter.
“I, however, encourage all people being threatened with arrests to report to my office and provide further information on the planned arrests. I have started holding reconciliation meetings with members of various Opposition parties in Busia District and we shall not tolerate any threats of arrest by security operatives,” Mr Achilla said.