Accountant, teachers named among missing NUP members

What you need to know:

  • Many of the missing individuals were later to be found in military custody. 

An accountant, a head teacher, one lawyer and students are among dozens of missing Opposition supporters, whose details were yesterday due for submission to the statutory rights body to establish their whereabouts.

The National Unity Platform (NUP) party planned to furnish the information upon a formal request by Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), the statutory rights body, following this newspaper’s reporting on renewed abductions of civilians by suspected security forces.

Ms Mariam Wangadya, the UHRC chairperson, said last evening that their next course of action will be informed by the information and evidence presented by NUP leaders.

“Chapter Four of the Uganda Constitution mandates the Commission to investigate any cries of human rights violations even without petitions. There have been some of these cases which we investigated and found that some of the matters have been mere comedy, like the alleged abduction and rape of one Alexandra Marinos,” Ms Wangadya said.

The cited chapter, which comprises Articles 20-58 of the Constitution, provides for a range of fundamental freedoms and inalienable rights and mechanism for their protection.

It prescribes manners of full enjoyment of the rights, whether individually or collectively, and clothes against abuse, torture, degrading and ill treatment as well as unlawful deprivation by anyone.

Legal experts say these provisions domesticate international instruments such as the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the East African Community Treaty and the Universal Declaration of Human rights --- considered gold standards on rights --- already signed or ratified by Uganda government.

Our investigations show that following this newspaper’s November 24 reporting about abduction of Opposition supporters by armed men travelling in vans named Drones for their speed, the statutory rights body wrote to NUP for details of their missing members.

Letter

The Commission’s November 28 letter was to Mr David Lewis Rubongoya, the party secretary-general, who confirmed receiving the correspondence.

“The purpose of this letter is to request for information from you concerning the particulars of all the National Unity Platform party members who have been reported missing. The Commission would particularly appreciate information about all names, National Identification numbers and mobile numbers [of the missing persons],” the letter read in part.

The rights body also wants to know the “dates when the missing people were abducted, physical address, most recent photographs and particulars of the next of kin”.

NUP made alarm about the abduction of its supporters and members before, during and after the 2021 presidential elections in which the party leader Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, emerged runner-up.

Allegations about the secret capture of citizens by security forces, which late Kampala Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga once likened to the disappearances recorded during Idi Amin’s government, stirred national outcry and public spat between the government and NUP.

Many of those missing individuals were later to be found in military custody and President Museveni, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, in a televised address said 50-plus of them were in custody of the Special Forces, then commanded by his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba, now a UPDF general.

Some of the missing persons emerged from incommunicado with torture marks and life-long injuries and were dropped in various places, including roadside swamps from where volunteers led them home.

An intense media scrutiny, including serialisation of the stories of the missing persons and plight of their families, as well as pressure from citizens and development partners, prompted the government to table in Parliament a list of 177 NUP supporters it said were in custody of security forces.

The then Internal Affairs Minister, Gen Jeje Odongo, later said a total of 1,300-plus supporters of the party and Bobi Wine had been incarcerated, including during and after the November 2020 protests sparked in Kampala and neighbouring districts over the arrest of the then presidential candidate while on campaign trail in the eastern Luuka District.

Protesters barricade a road in Kampala during riots on November 18, 2020. NUP made alarm about the abduction of its supporters and members before, during and after the 2021 presidential elections. PHOTO/FILE

After a lull, reports of abductions of mainly NUP supporters, again by armed men in Drone vehicles, resumed about three months ago, with nearly two dozen traders, bar tenders, boda bodas and menial job doers among the latest picks.

More than half of the number of people who appear on the new list are those that this publication has reported about to have been missing for the last two years or under.

The Information Minister, Dr Chris Baryomunsi, who is the official government spokesman, was unavailable for comment yesterday by telephone.

In previous comments, both police and Ugandan People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) denied holding the missing persons.

NUP is set to hold a news conference today at their head office in Kamwokya, a Kampala suburb, with families of the missing people expected to attend and detail how they have been coping and their barren struggles to establish their relatives.

“We know it has been because of pressure from the general public and that is why these people (UHRC) have decided to come up and appear to be investigating. We are not going to tire, we shall demand for our people because no one is free until all of us are free,” Bobi Wine told this publication last evening.

Background 

Arrests of supporters of the National Unity Platform (NUP) party began in the run-up to the 2021 General Election, and continued during and after the polls, attracting local and foreign interest and pressure.

The government initially denied holding Opposition supporters but in April 2021, admitted that security forces had arrested 1,300 suspects in relation to the November 2020 protests and 2021 election violence.

The violent protests in Kampala were triggered by the arrest of then NUP presidential flag bearer Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, while campaigning in Luuka District in eastern Uganda.

After NUP tabled what it called a list of 423 missing supporters in Parliament, then Internal Affairs minister Gen Jeje Odongo, who now superintends the Foreign Affairs docket, confirmed 58 of the named individuals were in government custody.

Gen Odongo said it was likely that majority of the individuals reported missing, then numbering 365, were hiding in villages because they knew the government was pursuing them on a range of undisclosed offences.

The victims

  1. Jamshid Kavuma
  2. John Bosco Kibalama, accountant
  3.  Micheal Semuddu
  4. John Damulira, businessman
  5.  Moses Mbabazi
  6. Vincent Nalumonso
  7. Martin Lukwago
  8. Muhammad Kanatta
  9. Yuda Sempijja
  10. Musisi Mbowa
  11. Peter Kirya
  12. Shafik Wangolo
  13. Dennis Zimula
  14. Mustafa Luwemba
  15. Hassan Mubiru, politician
  16. Isma Ssesaazi
  17. Godfrey Kisemba, headteacher
  18. George Kasumba, 
  19. Joseph Baguma, boda rider
  20. Haruna Badru Ssonko
  21. Charles Ntale
  22. Abdu Bayani Babu, student
  23. Godfrey Kirumira, student
  24. Patrick Ahumuza
  25. Steven Muleme

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