Inmates in West Nile spend nights standing

District leaders tour Arua government prison recently. The facility accommodates 1,158 inmates yet it was constructed to accommodate 270. PHOTO/FELIX WAROM OKELLO

What you need to know:

  • The affected facilities are Arua government prison, Arua central police cells and Yumbe prison.

Inmates in prisons and police cells in West Nile Sub-region are spending nights standing or squatting due to congestion, according to a new report.

The affected facilities are Arua government prison, Arua central police cells and Yumbe prison.

The findings are contained in a report by the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC).

While releasing the report at the weekend, the acting regional human rights officer at the UHRC office in Arua, Mr Bosco Okurut, said: “During our visits, in Yumbe prisons, we found out that inmates and suspects do not sleep, they pile their legs on each other while sitting throughout the night. Equally, at Arua government prison, inmates stand or sit throughout because of space constraints.”

 Mr Okurut said the congestion violates rights of inmates. He said the prisons department needs to lobby the government to construct more detention facilities.

“In Lobule in Koboko, the police officers and some suspects are also accommodated in grass thatched houses. This is dangerous because a person with bad intention can cause havoc by setting such houses on fire,” he said.

According to the figures from Arua government prison, by the weekend it was accommodating 1,158 inmates, yet it was constructed to accommodate 270.

The UHRC report also reported that inmates are subjected to long hours of work, detention beyond 48 hours without trial, inadequate or no ventilators in the cells, detaining juveniles with adults and poor feeding, among others.

Another detention facility that is in a dilapidated state is Warr Police Post in Zombo District where suspects are accommodated in a former shop, whose ceilings is about to collapse.

The officer-in-charge of the female section at Arua government prison, Ms Jane Ayikoru, said:

“Congestion in both male and female sections disturbs us. Some of the inmates are aged 80 years and above but continue to suffer from the constrained space. Even in our female section, the number has tripled from a capacity of 45 female inmates.”

She asked the Judiciary to also speed up trials of inmates and encouraged plea bargaining.

The West Nile regional police commander, Mr Enock Abaine, acknowledged that some of the cells are congested because some officers detain suspects on cases of civil nature.

“We have received 300 unipots and each district is to get between 20 and 30 unipots for offices and barracks. This will relieve us of the burden of accommodation. But in Madi-Okollo, new cells are being constructed so that the detention of suspects is properly done,” he said.

West Nile Sub-region is witnessing a spike in criminality due to rampant land wrangles, drug abuse, and acts of mob action. This has led to arrests and detention in the various facilities across the sub-region.