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“Is He Alive?” John Damulira’s Family Asks a Year After his Arrest :: Uganda Radionetwork

“Is He Alive?” John Damulira’s Family Asks a Year After his Arrest

While Police earlier confirmed Ddamulira’s arrest to Daily Monitor, this time when asked about the state of the citizen they arrested a year ago, they didn't respond. A State Attorney also confirmed to court that the state had Ddamulira but did not say exactly where he was being held. Uganda Media Center didn't have any answer after checking around the security agencies either. Uganda Peoples Defence Forces -UPDF deputy spokesperson Lt. Col Ronald Kakurungu said they don't have anyone while Special Forces Command -SFC spokesperson Jimmy Omara in June also said they are not holding anyone.
11 Nov 2021 13:14
Sarah Damulira holding a photo of her missing husband

Audio 2


When John Damulira, 50 years old left his home in Wakuleka, about 100 meters off Salama Road in Makindye Division on Saturday November 21st 2020 thinking that normalcy had returned to the city following deadly riots, he thought he would reopen his car spare parts shop. But that day at about midday, he was arrested, according the family.

That is the last day he was seen, to date.


Damulira was arrested together with four other people by policemen dressed in counter-terrorism uniform,  his wife Sarah Damulira says. 

Two of those arrested were his customers while other two were his employees. Bundled into a drone, handcuffed and their faces covered with hoods, they were beaten while being driven around the city up to midnight. 

Four of the people Damulira was arrested with were dropped that night.   

A year after his arrest, the family is asking, is he alive and if  not, where is his dead body? When this reporter met Sarah Damulira for an interview, she had little to say because she is tired of talking, searching and has seemingly lost hope of ever finding her husband alive. 


Fruitless search  

As family started the search visiting different police stations and prisons, Sarah Damulira, says they were upbeat given that Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango had confirmed Mr Ddamulira’s arrest in an interview with Daily Monitor

“It is true, he is one of the people we arrested, but I cannot tell you where he and others are detained now,” Onyango said on behalf of the Uganda Police Force.


The search was intense between November 2020 and March 2021. 

By March, the family had secured a habeas corpus court order from Kampala High Court but no security agency was willing to respect it. Even in court, a state attorney initially admitted that Damulira was in detention but when asked by the judge to mention the detention he was in, he couldn’t, the family says. 

And when asked go and look for the detention, the prosecutor didn’t return to court.   

That is when the family's hopes started dwindling. Their hopes continued to wane as tens of people who had been abducted were dropped across the country. Today, Damulira is among less than a dozen people on the National Unity Platform -NUP’s list of arrested people whose whereabouts are still unknown a year later.


The family’s plea to the president is to at least to have Damulira produced in court or if he died, they should be given the body. 


//Cue in: “musaba nga mzee…//

Cue out:…omwami wange wali.”//


Without knowing what happened to her husband—whether dead or alive, Sarah Damulira says she can never have a settled mind. And why is it her husband still missing when many other people were released is a question she asks herself daily.  

//Cue in: nanonya omwami wange…//

Cue out:…nti nebamukusulila wali//


NUP President Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine accompanied by party secretary general Lewis Rubongoya and other party officials visited Damulira’s family on October 27th 2021. After the meeting, he tweeted “our legal teams have followed up without success.” He added; “The whereabouts of Damulira are still unknown. Our demand to the regime has been to produce him, whether dead or alive. His businesses have since stopped working.”


In Damulira’s absence, Sarah has become a mother as well as the father. 

It is the hustle of feeding eight children every day that has drained her.

“I am in the worst situation where I can’t look after the children," she says. "I have no money to buy food. The children spend the entire day with empty stomachs, they sleep on empty stomachs. This is the worst punishment.” 


Some time after Damulira was arrested the family’s toilet was filled up, the wife says. A neighbour who was moved by their plight allowed them to use his toilet. But sensing that the family had no plan, the neighbour locked his toilet. 

“Now we have nowhere to ease ourselves from,” she says. 


This reporter failed to trace people who were arrested with Damulira because the family had no contacts. Geoffrey Kayita, one of the leaders in Kisekka Market said he knows nothing about Damulira’s disappearance apart from what’s already in the public domain. And when asked if he was a man of discipline, he said, “you can’t know a person you don’t sleep with, you can’t tell whether he is good or bad. He might be good during the day and when it comes to night, you don’t know.” 


URN asked many government institutions for Damulira’s whereabouts. 

Police asked for written questions and hasn’t responded. 

Uganda Media Center did have any answer. 

Uganda People Defence Forces (UPDF) deputy spokesperson Lt. Col Ronald Kakurungu said they don't have anyone.

And the Special Forces Command -SFC spokesperson Jimmy Omara in June also said they are not holding anyone. 


URN also interviewed Uganda Human Rights Commission Chairperson Marriam Wangadya  and Foundation for Human Rights Initiative Executive Director Livingstone Ssewanyana.

Neither of the two had heard that John Ddamulira was missing and that his whereabouts is still unknown. Both said the family should approach their offices and lodge a complaint. This, according to these high profile personalities who engage in fighting for human rights in Uganda, is the way they can can assisting with the search.  


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