Two years on, families of missing youths allege abduction

Mary Nalubooga (right) aunt to missing Martin Lugwago breaks down as she narrates the plight of her son to Bugolobi LC3 councillor Nusifah Nabasiita on May 29, 2023. PHOTO/SYLIVIA KATUSHABE

What you need to know:

  • Since 2019, several people have been reported missing after a wave of arrests prior, during and in post-election Uganda. 

The families of two Ugandan youths who went missing in Bugolobi in 2020 are still stranded after searching for them for two and a half years without trace. 

Relatives allege that Vincent Nalumaso, a former motorcycle mechanic at Bugolobi market and Martin Lukwago, a former fishmonger at the same market in Kampala- were abducted by security operatives in plain clothes and whisked away in a vehicle commonly known as a drone to unknown places.

Lukwago and Nalumaso have been missing since November 23, 2020 and Dec 1, 2020 respectively- and their whereabouts remain a mystery, as of June 2, 2023.

Aged 70, Mary Nalubooga who raised Lukwago said she is “distressed about her nephew's disappearance because he helped her with everything from food, since she can no longer work.” 

"I have a huge problem since my nephew went missing because he was the only one I was left with since all my children died,” said Nalubooga who is resident in Mukono District’s Nammere-Kyampisi Village, central Uganda. 

Nalubooga and family say their member did not have any known bad character at the time he went missing.

She expressed more disappointment saying: “Bugolobi police station has not been helpful in addressing our matter.” 

"We are not sure if they are alive or dead. If they are alive, let them be brought back or taken to court if they have a case to answer. If they are dead, we should be told," said Lukwago’s other aunt Sarah Wanyana. 

 She added: “At least if they died, we should have buried them and try to come to terms with it that our loved ones died.” 
Wanyana told Monitor that Lukwago left them three children, aged 14, 11 and 7 whom they are struggling to take care of. 

Kampala food vendor Dorothy Najjuka said the situation is no different since her brother Nalumaso vanished.

“The situation in the family changed completely and there is no happiness anymore. The disappearance brings tears to our hearts and we wonder what we can do,” said Najjuka who is a resident of Kawaala, a city suburb. 

“My job can no longer support my many responsibilities that include looking after my brother’s children,” she said on Wednesday. 
On May 29, Bugolobi LC3 councillor Nusifah Nabasiita urged all people with information about the missing persons to report to authorities or their families. 
"These families have even received strangers who come to threaten them with the intention of stopping the search for their people," Nabasiita said. 

Police, UPDF say                                                                                                                                       
Asked to comment on the case, Kampala Metropolitan Deputy police spokesperson Luke Owoyesigire said that he had no idea about the matter.  

“Let them (family) go to CID (Criminal Investigations Department) headquarters and may be the Human Rights Commission (UHRC) if at all they have any idea regarding if their people were arrested or not,” he responded in a Wednesday telephone interview. 

Army spokesperson Brig Felix Kulayigye told this reporter that security forces already accounted for all people who were under their custody as well as those that had been arrested when Ugandans raised alarm over state-linked abductions. 

“We have accounted for whoever is in our custody. That means we don’t have them. If they haven’t been helped by police, the next course of action is reporting to the UHRC then it will do its own report and give them feedback,” he noted. 

Since 2019, several people have been reported missing after a wave of arrests prior, during and in post-election Uganda.

 Although some of them have been arraigned before courts of law and others released, some have never been traced by their relatives despite opposition parties piling pressure on government to free what they describe as “political prisoners.” 

The country went to the ballot in 2021.