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.
John Damulira was arrested on November 21st. And his whereabout is still unknown
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).
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,”
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,”
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.
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.”