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Eyes on SFC for Abductees Whose Whereabouts Remain Unknown

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In a clear-cut February 23, 2021 statement, Museveni revealed that SFC was holding 51 people. “By the time I made my broadcasts on this and other issues on February 13, 2021, SFC was still ‘holding’ 53 persons,” Museveni said.
15 Jun 2021 12:27
John Damulira was arrested on November 21st. And his whereabout is still unknown
When president, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni addressed the nation on February 13, 2021, he mentioned two clusters of suspects that had been arrested during the election period.  The first cluster involved 177 suspects arrested by Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI).   According to Museveni, these were released. He also claimed that CMI had arrested 65 suspects who were still being investigated. The second cluster involving 59 suspects were arrested by his commandos. 

According to the breakdown, 18 suspects were from Kampala, 11 from Mpigi, 17 from Kyotera and 5 from Nakasongola. The president identified some of the suspects as “Ainebyona Junior, Mpagi Yasin, Niwabine Daudi, Okware Gerald, Sonko Richard, Matovu Denis. All those, their names are here,” Museveni said. “The security people should make this information available to the public,” he added.

The president’s address was partly meant to put an end to the discussion of disappearances. “The talk of disappearance should be ignored because it can’t happen under the NRM. Even if a mistake is made, it will be addressed, it will be answered. Every Ugandan under NRM will be accounted for,” he vowed.

The president’s written script was never made public. Except for the names read out by Museveni, the names of the suspects who were picked up his commandos are still unknown. Suspects who had been arrested from Kyotera and Mpigi were released months ago.  In a clear-cut February 23, 2021 statement, Museveni revealed that SFC was holding 51 people.

“By the time I made my broadcasts on this and other issues on February 13, 2021, SFC was still ‘holding’ 53 persons,” Museveni said.   “Since that time, two persons have been released; one had a problem with TB.  The other 51 have been with SFC, helping them to expose the whole criminal scheme of elements of the Opposition plus their local parasite and foreign backers.”  But the whereabouts of two suspects—Richard Sonko and Denis Matovu—that the president mentioned is still unknown.

Mavotu and Sonko were arrested on December 8 2020. There are other abductees such as John Damulira picked from Kisekka market on November 21, 2020, and Martin Lukwago who was picked from Bugolobi market on November 23 whose whereabouts is also unknown. These four were picked days or weeks after the riots triggered by the arrest of the National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine during his campaign trail in Luuka.  

A six months search by Solome Nakibuuka, the mother of Sonko and Matovu has taken her to tens of police stations, prisons, courts and meetings with several soldiers without yielding answers to the question: where they are detained or whether they are still alive? Nakibuuka in a recent interview with URN said the fruitless search has been a source of incomparable pain.

“The pain that I have experienced in the last six months, I had never experienced it in my entire life,” she said.  Nakibuuka said some soldiers were telling her to wait after swearing-in. Now, her worry is, it ended. Other soldiers Nakibuuka approached told her that they couldn’t be of any help because the issue was beyond their reach.

“They tell me if they are seen following my issue, they can lose their jobs. When you tell them drones, they say, no, no because it’s very high ranking officers who know where those people could be,” said.   

Security Agencies Are Quiet 

Since the president’s address mentioning arrests by commandos, SFC has denied holding anyone. That’s the same response from the SFC Spokesperson, Jimmy Omara. “We are not holding anyone; we don’t have a detention facility. What I know is that H.E was talking about those people being in the hands of security operatives and not of SFC.”

When this reporter sent him an audio clip from Museveni’s February 13th address mentioning that SFC was holding people, Omara said, “I cannot confirm the authenticity of the audio you attached.” Omara advised this reporter to contact Police Spokesperson, Fred Enanga who said “I am not aware of that list, you’re talking about.”

He preferred to talk about suspects such as those of Kyotera who were released. Enanga swiftly cut off the phone call when this reporter suggested sharing clips of Museveni mentioning people who are still missing. UPDF Spokesperson, Flavia Byekwaso asked our reporter to direct questions to the president’s press secretary or SFC spokesperson. The president’s press secretary Linda Nabusayi also sent this reporter to the SFC spokesperson.  

Deception

Human rights lawyer, Nicholas Opiyo says that security agencies have woven system of deception to clean up acts of criminality committed during the election season yet the president in his moment of candour “admitted having been responsible for their disappearance.”

“There is no doubt that the Ugandan state, NRM government is responsible either by omission or commission for any person who has disappeared from this country,” Opiyo said. To hold the state to account, he says it must be sued. But two families interviewed by this reporter—Nakibuuka Solome and Sarah Damulira whose husband was kidnapped on November 21st last year and is still missing—sued the government and obtained writs of habeas corpus. No security agency respected these writs. 

Opiyo thinks Ugandans move on quickly. And if the state is to be held to account for its criminal acts during the election season, he says the president must be held to account at every occasion, whether it’s the state of the nation address, budget speech or parliament.  “Members of parliament and the press have a chance to ask him this question if these people are to reappear,” he says.   For SFC, Opiyo says it has “gotten away with numerous crimes.”    

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