The issue of armed men dressed in plain clothes is increasingly rearing its ugly face in Uganda during this election campaign period. The story, ‘Dozens of people missing after arrest by armed men’ in the Daily Monitor of yesterday, should be cause for worry for all peace-loving citizens as well as other people.
In the midst of an election campaign in the country, citizens should be directing their focus at the programmes and proposals candidates for presidential, parliamentary, and local council political positions are putting out to the electorate to enable them elect their leaders from an informed position.
It is, therefore, absurd that in such a situation of anxiety and expectations among citizens, that arrests of some citizens are ongoing. But let’s be clear here.
Elections alone do not stop law and order enforcement agencies such as the police and other security agencies from carrying out their lawful duties, including making arrests. What is in contest is the manner and sometimes the time of arrest. Why would a person dressed in plain clothes hold a gun which is the preserve of the official security personnel?Ideally, arrests of a suspect(s) carried by police or any other security personnel in identifiable uniform and equipped with arrest warrant, is what is legally acceptable. The challenge comes when men and women dressed in casual wear raid homes, businesses or pounce on their prey on the streets or markets and pick-up people without producing any arrest warrant.
Worse still, the people arrested are driven away and kept in locations unknown to their families, relatives and friends. Moreover, given the haphazard manner of the arrests, the possibility of victims being produced and charged in a court of law within the constitutionally mandated 48 hours, remains a mirage.
This is the case with Mr John Ddamulira, who was arrested a month ago at Kisekka Market and has never been seen again. Of course, the story brings out many other names all of whom we cannot highlight here. Suffice to cite a person like Mr Charles Sewanonda, who was also reportedly arrested at Kisekka Market by armed people, who remained tight-lipped about the offence he committed.
Some families and friends have reported that security operatives storm their homes looking for family members like Ayabale Halima was questioned about the where abouts of her husband Kenneth Mukasa Seguya, and Bridgette Kyalimpa was questioned on the whereabouts of her friend and housemate Ndyamuhaki Racheal Makula.
These acts spell doom for rule of law and democracy in Uganda. The situation makes everyone scared because no one is safe. It’s a situation of uncertainty especially those alleged to be supporters of opposition political parties who have been the target.
In a country like Uganda, it is imperative that institutions and individuals adhere to the rule of law if lasting peace and enjoyment of fundamental human rights are to be achieved. Short of that, the country risks sliding back to practising jungle law characterised by disappearances, violence, kidnapping, and uncalled for deaths.
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