What you need to know:
- The MPs said their walkout was in protest for the continued injustice in the country that includes several killings and unaccounted for citizens who are missing since last year’s presidential poll and torture of citizens.
Opposition Members of Parliament on Thursday walked out of a parliamentary session in protest of reported torture of citizens by security operatives, detention without trial, and missing supporters.
Mr Mathias Mpuuga, the Leader of Opposition led the walkout and was followed by MPs from different opposition political parties after he disagreed with Deputy Speaker, Ms Anita Among regarding the delayed action by the government on the continued torture of citizens, detention without trial, and abductions.
Those who walked out are from the biggest Opposition party, the National Unity Platform (NUP), Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), Democratic Party (DP), and Justice Forum (JEEMA).
After walking out of the Chamber, the MPs sat at the Parliament building stairway and sang in protest, demanding the immediate release of all their supporters who were arrested during the 2021 general elections campaign and action taken regarding torture cases.
They chanted slogans ‘No to Torture’, ‘Free our People’ and ‘we want Freedom’.
Mr Mpuuga justified their action saying that their walkout was in protest for the continued injustice in the country that includes several killings and unaccounted for citizens who are missing since last year’s presidential poll and torture of citizens.
“The tortured victims have been witnessed and while that is going on, the State actors are unable to explain the killings that are illegal and extrajudicial, the disappearance of citizens, the torture of so many citizens…those we have seen, known and those unseen. That is taking place in all parts of the country,” said Mpuuga.
He said that leaders cannot be part of the face of torture and that they will abscond from Parliament sittings for the next two weeks.
Mr Mpuuga demanded that security operatives maiming Ugandans should be arraigned before court.
Earlier, Ms Among had appealed to the Opposition to allow the government time to present a comprehensive statement on the matter on Tuesday next week.
“There was an issue that was raised in this House about torture, the people who are being tortured, and the missing people. The list was laid on the table and we need an explanation from the Attorney General on the whereabouts of the missing people and what the government is doing to have these people released. We gave you two weeks and the two weeks end on Tuesday,” said Among in part.
She added that Parliament expects a comprehensive report from the Attorney General, Kiryowa Kiwanuka on what action has been taken.
However, Mpuuga demanded that the plenary sitting be suspended until the government provides accountability for missing citizens, detention without trial including their colleagues Muhammad Ssegirinya, representing Kawempe North and Makindye West MP Allan Ssewanya, and torture.
Attempts by Among to convince Mpuuga to wait for a government statement fell on deaf ears.
Mpuuga said that the government is taking citizens for granted and has taken so long to respond to the issues presented before parliament.
However, some NRM MPs condemned the act of their fellow legislators. Geoffrey Macho, the Busia Municipality MP said that the actions of their colleagues were not necessary as parliament is a temple where issues should be discussed. He wondered how issues will be resolved with walkouts.
Solomon Silwany, the Bukhooli Central MP said that it is always important to discuss issues rather than resorting to protests.
Deputy Speaker Among said that she would never call off Parliament when she has offered solutions.
"Whereas it is a right of our colleagues to walk out of a parliamentary session, I feel there was still room for engagement. They’ve walked out on us but we won’t walk out on them. We shall look into their issues & respond accordingly," said Government Chief Whip, Mr Thomas Tayebwa.
The Opposition has since the 2021 general elections campaigns complained about abduction of its supporters and torture of those detained. A formal statement on the matter with a list of missing persons was presented to the House for action by government but the responsible Ministers are yet to respond to the different queries by MPs.
Worsening restrictions on civic space in Uganda
After the 40th session of Universal Periodic Review of human rights held in Geneva, Switzerland on January 24, 2022 the U.S said in a January 27 statement delivered by Delaney Felker, Foreign Affairs Officer, that it’s concerned about worsening restrictions on civic space in Uganda.
“The United States appreciates Uganda’s longstanding policy of open borders for refugees seeking safety, including ongoing efforts to support individuals from Afghanistan relocated by private organizations. However, we remain concerned about worsening restrictions on civic space,” the statement reads in part.
In its recommendation, the U.S said Uganda should lift ongoing suspensions of civil society organizations to contribute to promoting and protecting freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; pursue a full accounting of the violence and killings committed leading up to the 2021 elections, particularly enforced disappearances and the November 2020 actions of security forces, to ensure accountability and build public trust in institutions; and lastly, ensure respect for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex persons, including by ending the use of forced anal examinations on them.