President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni Tibuhaburwa in one of his most addresses to the nation warned security operatives to stop torturing wanaichi.
Museveni was so explicit that he not only stopped physical torture, he also banned members of security from barking at people.
The president emphatically stated via this particular national address, how any security operative caught willfully torturing wanainchi would henceforth answer for it individually.
Barely two months later, Kawempe North MP Mohammad Ssegirinya is wasting away in hospital suffering from what, he says, was awful torture security operatives visited on him in detention!
It is worth not noting that Ssegirinya was arrested by the State after the president had issued the verbal order on torture.
The lawmaker was before arrest, a bubbly person up and running with no known serious illness afflicted on him.
The MP, we all know and saw was busy working hard to turn Kawempe North into ‘Mecca’ where, he said, the rest of the country would go to learn about development.
Following his arrest and court arraignment over yet-to-be-proved charges of murder and terrorism, the lawmaker was released twice on bail only for undercover security operatives to grab him in a manner that the whole world duly witnessed was evidently inhumane.
The operatives upon grabbing Ssegirinya went on and bundled the suspect into the dreaded drone van before dangerously driving him away to where no one has any clue about.
For starters, many Ugandans who have been arrested and driven away into such vehicles have been telling harrowing stories of the terrible torture that goes on inside them!
One of the victims, award-winning author and legal scholar, Kakwenza Rukirabashaija who was once grabbed on account of literally works deemed critical of the establishment and bundled into this equivalent of Obote’s ‘ Mpaawo atalikaaba’ loosely translated ‘no one is safe’ bus, has since written chilling accounts detailing the ghastly torture his captors subjected him to.
He is currently writing a column in the weekly Observer newspaper referring to himself as ‘a victim of Museveni’s barbarism!
Returning to Ssegirinya, the first time reports of torture sprang up, the regime and prison services swore by the living God how no one has ever touched him!
In effect, Ssegirinnya, according to the State’s and prison services’ spin doctors, was telling lies in hopes of tarnishing the State in the eyes of the world being an opposition politician.
Well, Ssegirinya would later exploit a live visual court session to stick out his evidently rotten feet for the whole world to see.
What followed, the prison services possibly under instructions of powerful people, at the next court session switched off the gadgets which the MP had exploited previously to exhibit his rotten feet to the court of public opinion in order to prove to the world he was being tortured in prison!
On this occasion, the lawyers representing Ssegirinya duly narrated to justice Lawrence Tweyanze in Masaka how he was wasting away in prison yet the sick bay in prison lacked treatment commensurate to the kind of torture he was being subjected to.
The judge didn’t possibly take judicial notice of the health condition of the prisoner nor did he consider the fact that there was no better treatment in prison to handle Ssegirinnya’s complicated case!
The judge appears to have casually believed the State’s assertions that there was adequate and commensurate treatment to handle the kind of ailment Ssegirinya suffers without duly interrogating the same before sending Ssegirinya back to prison ostensibly to die!
The State and the prison following weeks of gambling with Ssegirinya’s life without allowing his private doctors and lawyers to see the patient, finally surrendered him to the Mulago national referral hospital.
The prison services are again not allowing anyone else apart from the government doctors and their askaris from accessing the patient!
What is going on gives some credence to the feeling in town that the State through the prison services are blocking the relatives, lawyers, friends and, more so, opposition MPs from accessing the patient simply because they don’t want them to see and reveal to the world the bad shape he is in.
The State is hiding Ssegirinya from public view and doctors in Mulago fear if he is not quickly allowed to go abroad for specialized treatment, he is likely to lose his life!
“He is in a very bad shape necessitating quickly airlifting him abroad for much more specialized treatment that is lacking here,” the doctors at Mulago have said.
The National Unity Platform President Robert Kyagulanyi and his party members were allowed to visit him this week, but were stopped from taking any pictures with him.
Kyagulanyi narrated afterwards that Ssegirinya is complaining of excruciating pain in his foot.
He also confirmed through his Facebook post that indeed Ssegirinya has been enduring pychological torture: Kyagulanyi said: “We have learnt from him that several state operatives and politicians keep frequenting his treatment room and harassing him to apologize to Dictator Museveni and denounce the struggle or else he will not be freed from his misery. I have been encouraged to observe, however that comrade Ssegirinya is braving this suffering with unimaginable fortitude and conviction.”
While the doctors at Mulago illuminate Ssegirinya’s condition as fragile, the prison services spin doctor, Frank Baine continues to down play the seemingly grave matter.
“Yes, he is at Mulago, but his condition isn’t scary as some people want the world to believe,”Baine stated on Wednesday commenting on Ssegirinya’s health status.
Following public outcry including from the Leader of the Opposition Mathias Mpuuga that the state would be held accountable if God forbid Ssegirinya would die in detention, Prime Minister Robinnah Nabbanja promised to visit the legislator.
On her part, Deputy Speaker Annet Amongi told the national assembly she was waiting for clearance from the State to fund Ssegirinya’s treatment abroad.
Mathias Nsamba Mpuuga had complained bitterly about the national assembly’s coyness regarding Ssegirinya’s illness.
As the ping pong goes on, it is imperative to point out the fact that government is constitutionally obliged to safeguard the lives of wanainchi and to accord them the necessary treatment in case of ill-health.
In case the government finds itself unable to give the treatment the patient requires, the Constitution enjoins the government to make it possible for those able to find treatment themselves to go ahead and do so and without unnecessary ado.