A number of human rights activists have roundly accused the government of orchestrating a reign of torture against its opponents through arbitrary arrests and refusal to commit them to constitutionally mandated trial in the courts of law.
Prominent human rights activists came together this week to urge Ugandans to rise up and demand that the government stops holding its opponents behind bars for prolonged periods without being tried.
The call comes amidst an increasingly loud outcry by members of the opposition against the continuing arrest of politicians on allegations of promoting sectarianism and for fomenting rebellion.
This week the former Minister of ethics and integrity Miriam Matembe was joined by the former Deputy Inspector General of Government Waswa Lule and other leaders to demand that the government stops throwing its critics in prison.
This comes a few days after the President of the National Economic Empowerment Dialogue (NEED), Joseph Kabuleta was jailed for allegedly publishing a sectarian video.
Addressing Journalists in Kampala recently in commemoration of December 10, international Human Rights Day, Matembe expressed disappointment at the way the government’s record on human rights has degenerated.
Matembe demanded that the government should ensure that all persons who are missing since the last (2021 general elections) are set free or be produced in court if they have a case to answer.
“I do not refuse or object to arresting an alleged offender, everybody who is alleged to have committed a crime must be arrested, taken to court and their case be heard and then if its conviction, they should be convicted, if its acquittal, they should be acquitted….. but there are procedures in the Constitution…. So those laws within the constitution should be followed to arrest people. Ugandans should rise up and talk against these violations,” said Matembe.
She also criticised the recent arrest of NEED President Kabuleta, saying: “I think Mr. Kabuleta should be let out of that prison, I don’t see why he and other political prisoners are suffering”-Dr. Matembe.”
She opined that Kabuleeta was not arrested because he made sectarianism statements but rather because of his politics of criticizing the government and mobilizing Ugandans toward economic empowerment, which she said is his right as a political player since Uganda is said to be under a democratic and multiparty political dispensation.
The leading opposition party – National Unity Platform says that more than 250 of its supporters have since 2021 general elections been violently arrested and never been tried in courts of law.
After insistence from Parliament demanding the government to account for all missing persons, the Minister of Internal Affairs Gen. Jeje Odong presented to Parliament a list of 177 people whom he said were in prison. NUP said only 80 of those on the list matched the names of their members who were disappeared by security forces.
Wasswa Lule who also served in the NRM government as Deputy IGG said that the government should take the initiative to prevail over the errant security officials behind these abductions.
He accused the government of condoning the ongoing human rights violations and likened the current regime to previous regimes which Museveni claimed to have liberated Ugandans from.
He said the government has not done enough to investigate the ongoing abductions.
“Apprehending suspected criminals is not against any Constitution of any country, the problem is that this practice of apprehending people in these drones whilst the powers that be in government disclaim the shortcoming in these arrests and there is no reprimands, (is the challenge),” Lule said.
Kenneth Ssebwami Kiwanuka, a Human Rights activist based in Homia argued that Uganda’s Parliament should be focusing on how to foster human rights observation rather than debate what he referred to as non-issues citing the ongoing process by Parliament to censure Lands Deputy Minister Persis Namugaza.
Ssebwami stresses that with the two MPs Allan Ssewanyana and Mohammed Ssegiriya detained for over a year, Parliamentarians should be addressing acts of human rights violations and abuse such as abductions, unlawful detention, the unheard cases in courts and denial of bail.
He further challenged the banyoro elders to come out and speak out not only on the detention of the son of the soil Joseph Kabuleta Kiiza but also on the general human rights situation in the country where the rights of many Ugandans have been violated.