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How November Protests and Subsequent Abductions Ruined Four Young Men's Lives

As Uganda marks the first anniversary of the November 18th protests triggered by arrest of Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine during campaign season that resulted scores of deaths and hundreds of abductions, URN interviewed for young men on how the abduction and arrests impacted them.
16 Nov 2021 13:15
Denis Matovu has released in July 2021 after six months in unknown detention

Audio 4

Although the 20s are a time of excitement, hard work, personal progress, marriage and even investments, unstable politics can blow all those dreams up in smoke.

As Uganda mark the first anniversary of November 18, protests triggered by the arrest of Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine during the campaign season that resulted in the death of more than 50 people as well as kidnaps of hundreds of National Unity Platform -NUP supporters, URN interviewed four young men on how the abductions impacted them.      

They were abducted in the aftermath of the protests and some were in detention for more than six months. The victims are Denis Matovu, 24 years abducted on December 8th 2020; Muganga Karim, 25 years was abducted on November 21st 2020; John Milo 26 years and Obicho Bony 25 years who were grabbed on December 31st 2020 in Kalangala when Bobi Wine’s entire campaign team was arrested.       

Denis Matovu, a resident of Makindye Division, the most recent abductee to be released (in July 2021) after more than six months of detention in an unknown place was hard to get for an interview. His family, except the mother, didn’t want him to speak to media.      

When URN met him for an interview early this month, torture scars were still visible on his arms and legs. Matovu went through despicable torture: he would be asked to roll on the floor daily, beaten daily and was made to spend almost a month standing in a septic tank containing water that covered him, except the head. He showed URN journalists gruesome images of fresh wounds he had immediately after his release in July.    

Prior to his arrest, he was a driver. And by the time he returned, his boss had hired another person. His property had been thrown out of this house which was rented to another person. Matovu says he doesn’t have a job and feels that his peers have already left him behind in terms of hustling to get better.    

//Cue in; “nali ndi driver…

Cue out:…milimo naye gikyambuze.”//    

Before he was kidnapped, Muganga, a father of two was a taxi conductor. He spent 53 days in an unknown detention facility. But the time he was released in February 2021, he says his left eye had been damaged because of torture. Given that he couldn’t see properly, he couldn’t return to his old job. Muganga now lives in Kabembe, Kyampisi sub county, Mukono district.      

After his release, Muganga says he found all his household properties lost because the wife had left the house. Muganga’s two children were under the care of his parents. Up to now, he doesn’t know where the wife went. He had two cows and they also had been stolen.“I feel like I have gone backwards 1,000 times,” he said in an interview.    

Muganga says friends and family collected for him 450,000 Uganda shillings that he invested into a brickmaking project. His wish is that the National Unity Platform should support him with more capital.   

//Cue in; “Kati esaawa zino ndi mubulooka…

Cue out…emikono ginumira ddala.”//      

The eye defect reminds Muganga of the torture he went through. He went to many organizations including the Uganda Human Rights Commission as well as the African Center for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims -ACTV looking for medical assistance which he didn’t get. He hopes that when his brickmaking business earns him enough money, he will go for proper treatment.       

//Cue in; Ebintu byenafiirwa byo…   

Cue out…oba ngato mpya.”//    

Being a Ugandan doesn’t make sense anymore for Muganga. And he has vowed never to participate in politics again or take part in any protest.     

Bony Obicho, who was a mechanic on Bobi Wine’s campaign team was arrested in Kalangala. He was among detainees given bail in February 2021 on medical grounds. Obicho has told URN thrice and showed documents from Mengo Hospital indicating that his intestines were damaged during torture.      

But every time Obicho reflects on the suffering he underwent, he thinks that freedom is worth fighting for. He is ready to participate in politics.      

//Cue in; Wade twafuna obulemu…   

Cue out… sisobola kizikiza.”//     

He has never returned to work as a mechanic. His request to NUP is to support him in setting up his business that’s not labour intensive.   

//Cue in; Ntunulide kiva mu president…   

Cue out…ntandikirawo.”//     

John Miiro was also picked from Kalangala. Miiro says his main job was branding NUP’s materials including berets, people power shirts, overalls among others. Miiro told URN that his car worth more than 15 million was destroyed by security operatives during campaign season and he has never repaired it. After his release in February 2021, he says his mother got him a loan of 8 million to start his business again.

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