The National Unity Platform (NUP) party has condemned the assault of two of its members in Buvuma District.
Ms Suzan Nakaziba Mugabi, the Buvuma Woman MP, and Mr Gad Daniel Onyango, alias Opondo, the district Speaker, were allegedly brutally attacked by police during the belated Women’s Day celebrations in Kyanja Village, Bwema Sub-county in Buvuma District on April 21.
However, police have denied the allegations, saying the event was not approved by the Force.
A video, which has since gone viral on social media, shows people dressed in police attire kicking, subduing and beating the duo who sustained injuries.
By press time yesterday, Ms Mugabi was admitted to Rubaga hospital, while Mr Onyango was admitted to a medical facility in Iganga District where they were being treated for the injuries they sustained.
In an interview with Monitor yesterday, NUP spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi said the high-handedness of the security personnel was uncalled for since party members were not armed.
“The people they torture are leaders who committed no offence. We are taking note of those individuals in police and army uniforms who are engaging in such heinous acts,” he said.
He wondered why security agencies continue to disperse Opposition gatherings but activities organised by the First Son, Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, are allowed to take place.
“He [Gen Muhoozi should] be the one to be blocked because he is a serving army officer who is openly doing politics,” Mr Ssenyonyi said.
The NUP Secretary General, Mr David Lewis Rubongoya, said the party will take legal action against police brutality on its politicians.
“Police assaulting our people has now become a pattern. We shall take action and we are contemplating different forms of action including political and legal actions. We are discussing this and our team in Parliament led by the Leader of Opposition is also discussing how to respond to this madness,” Mr Rubongoya said.
He added “The people of Uganda need to see this brutality beyond just the few incidents. It is now a crisis. Mr Museveni’s son is able to move in the country and do what he wants even when it is illegal for him to do it as a military officer and yet we have NUP being hounded everywhere and yet it is a registered political party. Those double standards really show which type of country we are living in.”
The leader of NUP, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, alias Bobi Wine, on Friday, took to Twitter to condemn the act.
“This is how Hon Susan Mugabi and the District Speaker of Buvuma were treated by the police and military yesterday. Journalists were detained and forced to delete footage to hide these criminal actions. In a sane government, these security men would now be behind bars!” Mr Kyagulanyi said.
He added: “In trying to block her Women’s Day celebrations, the shameless thugs in our national uniform pounced on her and other leaders and assaulted them. Journalists have been beaten up, arrested and forced to delete implicating footage. I wanted to speak to her on the phone, but was told she’s still in a very critical condition; praying she recovers. We’re working with her family and medical team. THERE WILL BE ACCOUNTABILITY!”
However, the Ssezibwa regional police spokesperson, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Hellen Butoto, denied the allegations of police brutality, saying no one was injured in the incident.
“The crowd had become violent which forced police to disperse it using teargas and the situation later normalised,” she said.
She added: “Four suspects were arrested including Mr Gad Daniel Onyango, alias Opondo, Mr Rodgers Kalumba, Mr Steven Matovu and Mr Henry Sentamu and face charges of unlawful assembly and inciting violence.”
ASP Butoto said the suspects were granted bond at the weekend and will this week be arraigned in court together with the legislator.
She said Ms Mugabi organised the event without seeking police clearance.
“So, police together with other sister agencies intervened and tried to talk to Mugabi to cancel the arrangements but she paid a deaf ear and went on with her plans. This prompted police to use the required minimum force to fail the arrangements,” she added.
Police and other security bodies in the country have often targeted public events by Opposition political parties. The security bodies accuse organisers of the events of acting contrary to the Public Order Management Act.
On May 27, 2008, the Constitutional Court ruled that Section 32(2) of the Police Act, which the Force had been invoking to block public assemblies and demonstrations, was inconsistent with Article 29(1) of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of association, including the right to demonstrate.
The judges ruled that empowering the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to prohibit assemblies “contravened the fundamental rights to freedom of assembly and to demonstrate together with others peacefully”.
In 2020, the same court struck down Section 8 of the Public Order Management Act which had returned those powers to the Inspector General of Police, but police continue to block public gatherings claiming that they have “intelligence information that the organizers may breach peace”
Surprisingly, the courts also continue to hear cases of unlawful assembly which the Constitutional Court pronounced itself 15 years ago.