Police on March 3 intercepted and arrested FDC youths travelling back to Kampala from Hoima where they had gone to support other party members. One of them Kyomuhendo A. Ateenyi, the Makerere University Chapter leader recounts his arrest.
Tempted on by the unforgettable words of the American civil war veteran, political leader, and orator during the Golden Age of Free thought- Robert G. Ingersoll; ‘He loves his country best who strives to make it best.’ I accepted an FDC assignment to lead a 50- strong delegation to the oil- drenched clays and loams of my birth- Bunyoro, successor a kingdom to the Glorious Bunyoro- Kitara Empire that once was.
Journeys to even a single foot of Bunyoro soil have always inspired the finest and most altruistic of human emotions from the Millet gatherer’s son ever since he was milk-teethed. Thus he felt no different even this time round. In fact, he felt way far happier now that in addition to the trappings of exploration and adventure, he was participant in the furtherance of an ideal, – a democratic society that he so desperately cherishes.
If I may say, I never measured equal to that task if taken by all its specifics. Why? Due to irritating network hitches of almost all the telecommunication giants- MTN, UTL, Warid and Zain on March 1 2011 around Makerere University, I only managed to mobilize a company of 19 students instead of the ‘contract’ 50.
Destination: Hoima. Assignment: Polling agents of Mr. Atugonza Francis, mayoral candidate for the Hoima Municipality seat. Voting Date: 2nd March 2011. Having taken the last bus, we reached Hoima a few minutes to midnight.
With me were: Mr. Kigongo Ayub, Mr. JP Rubagumya, Mr. Wabulembo Robinson, Mr. Kalegga Michael, Mr. Okumu- Magara Steven, Mr. Kwezi Godfrey, Mr. Mutumba Michael, Mr. Besigye Bright, Mr. Musika Nicholas, Mr. Tamale Bashir, Mr. Kimuli Ibrahim, Mr. Wamanga Enock, Mr. Pakoyo Abdul- Latif, Mr. Kaddu Henry, Mr. Ategeka Moses, Mr. Tumusiime Deo, Mr. Lubega Rashid and Mr. Mutunzi David.
How the whole electoral process was handled, conducted and concluded is not the reason as to why I am writing. But if I am just persuaded to throw a hint, then I would say that it was unsurprisingly no different from its sham predecessors. We left Hoima at about 12pm by Link Bus registration number UAM 370L driven by a one Mr. Musa. The journey was smooth except for a few isolated incidents where ‘youthhood- madness’ got the better of my colleagues’ heads as they started competively chanting their halls of residence loyalty in slogans like: ‘Eh Lumumba Oyee!’ ‘Eh Lumumba Oyee!’ ‘Eh Mitchell Oyee!’ ‘Eh Mitchell Zee!’ ‘Eh Box Oyee….!
But as we were snaking through the outskirts of Wakiso District the Link way- just by a rusty signpost reading JESA Dairy Farm, we were all of a sudden intercepted by a heavily manned Road- Block of both Police and the Army. The latter’s green camouflage bore the initials ‘ES’ shoulder- high. The Bus was flagged to stop… A huge silence…Recitations of Swahili Poetry…Fear now etched deep down in the marrow…Whispers and sign language….More Swahili Poetry served…This time raw….In enters three Police Constables…Armed to the teeth…not smiling…looking like death itself…Musa ordered to roll wheels…A further few kilometers….Now at Kakiri….Corner negotiated….Prof. Gilbert Balibaseka Bukenya Poster…all yellow….heavy army presence on both sides of the road…a meter apart of one another…And this now is Kakiri Police Station!
Soldiers take cover…Fighting positions…Guns cock…Brows cringe…about 80 by the count…Swahili Poetry…Road to Station cordoned off….‘Come down’ ‘Come down’ ‘From here to there, all of you come down’ ‘Come Downnnnn’…. Superintendent Kalule his name is- ‘We know you are 20…where is the 20th?’…‘Kaa Chini’…‘Hand over your phones…’ ‘What do you call yourselves?!’…Car comes…UG xxxxC…‘So these are the ones’…Camera’s flash…Flash and Flash…!
Bags combed…Literature taken…which literature?…Campaign posters… Mr. Atugonza Francis… Mr. Baguma Patrick Jolly…Letters of appointment as Polling agents…FDC/IPC Change is coming T. Shirts…19…3 Blue Vuvuzelas…confiscated…‘Criminals…Criminals…Criminals…Sit Down…Sit Down…’…Boot in ribs…shrill groan…shrill cry…Aghhh…Details taken…Like Factory Sardines, packed into a stinking corridor…darkness…darkness…Bags returned…Photos again taken…Individually… ‘One Man. One T. Shirt’… ‘Ingia Ndani….Muyingiye Ndani…Haraka…’
Police Truck waiting… All of us…19….enter…Soldiers…enter…18 in Truck…16 with Kalashnikov assault rifles…What happened to smiling…A penal crime?…Kalashnikov Freedom…2 with Sub- Machine Guns…Two cars in front…Siren blaring…Superintendant Kalule…Two behind….Towards Kampala…!
Ride of Fame
The Truck moved at breakneck speed as though there was a dying inside it. It is interesting how this convoy of vehicles moved at such bullet- speed without ramming into one another. Sirens were still busy talking. The dark- skinned soldier by our truck’s exit did the ridiculous. Slowly, steadily and confidently, he started unscrewing the chamber within which was a meticulously arranged chain of bullets.
Seated next to him was Mutunzi. Now, Mutunzi proved to be the most fearful of our lot. At the sight (the dark- skinned soldier exhibition), he was overwhelmed by fear. I guess those near him must have all of a sudden felt a warm substance wet them. This same fear guided him to solace in his palms which he used to hide his head and face in a fashion of a mother grieving her lone child! The enthusiastic exhibitioner could not control his laughter!!
We attracted attention wherever we passed. As we reached Mulago Round about the convoy took a sharp turn and moved towards Yusuf Lule Rd. Most of us thought we were being led straight to CMI…the dreaded Uganda Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence! Every one of us looked in Mutunzi’s direction. Peal after peal of laughter helped us lighten the moment.
But our whole Bodyguard was not yet content. They warned us of the consequences of uttering a word, let alone laughing! We religiously obliged- as though we were criminals. You see, it was in the heat of this moment that I first realized that just as a soldier takes a superior’s order devotedly even in utter disregard and rejection of commonsense, so he expects to be obliged by the civilian. He also has a turn to receive what he gives. Now this was one such a time.
We reached CPS at around or about 6pm. Under strict instructions, we were told to disembark off the truck one by one—just that—one by one. So we obligingly did. We were then ordered to sit in a certain pattern along the many stairs that lead to the station reception. All this time we were being guarded like Gold- fat Port- laden trucks from a Katanga Gold mine! All one could see was Green camouflage and Blue Camouflage. As members of the Press started trickling in, we were shifted to what the ‘bay’: The Backyard. We were ordered to pair up—PRA suspect style! There was even an attempt on the side of police to improvise for lack of handcuffs with orders that we fasten our shirts- ends together and notch them in a way old women notch their over- flowing gomesis! I outrightly rejected this. They surprisingly complied.
We were ordered to sit in rows of five- Quiet as satisfied tombs! We were denied even the ‘luxury’ of leaning against the dirty wall! ‘You’ll do that in your homes. Not here. You are criminals!’- So roared Hajuso, the notorious light skinned Constable. He was carrying along with him three black V’s. In the army he would be a Sergeant. He furiously shouted: ‘Wee Mchunge Saana….Tutakata M****o zeenyu’ loosely translated to mean that we should stand warned lest, like bulls, we suffer the indignity of our manhood(s) getting castrated!
Then came a 3- diamond studded officer on whose left breast was inscribed the name Chemusto. In the army he would be a Captain. He warned us against ‘whatever was up our sleeves’. That we were inconsequential, that we cannot fight ‘government’. At this I consulted my inner colleague who pondered: ‘If truly he says we are inconsequential, then why all this hullabaloo? Why all this Military presence? Why all this parade of force? Why all these insults? Why? Why? Why?!’ He never heard this.
All my short activism life I have grown up to believe that the Institution of Police is a brutal and repressive one only dotted by humans as cruel and barbaric. But this amiable gentleman whose name I did not get impressed me a lot and sowed seeds of belief in me that be the status quo as it may, there are some individuals left in it that are still possessed of their humanity. Despite the fact that there still are the Hajusos, the Chemustos and Aruhos, there are also the Karungis and this Gentleman who still honor their uniform, who still honor the oath they took protect and serve the people of Uganda- whether professing the ‘right’ political creed or the ‘wrong’ one!
CID officers came by and took statements from us in which we detailed our ordeal. They too, like the Karungis (refer to my first arrest) and the other Gentleman, were possessed of such magnetic personalities. In their midst were not criminals, thugs or anarchists but brothers, sons, kinsmen and In- laws. Immediately after this exercise was concluded, we started seeing humanity return to even faces of people like Hajuso.
I think they had realized that we were just harmless stubborn students totally unconnected to what our brothers in the State love to so often christen as Anarchists. Just because we were professing a wrong political religion. The religion of change whose High Priest, a Medical Doctor by calling, was contentedly smiling on the sky- blue T. Shirts that had been earlier on in the day classified in the category of ‘Loot- of- War’.
At about 7pm, our phones were released. Our T-shirts returned along with our Dignity. Our fears exorcised. Even Mutunzi’s. But most importantly, our freedom, so arbitrarily and highhandedly hijacked from us, returned. We walked to freedom at about 7:30pm.And such was our torment.
I know, as well as my colleagues do, that all these hijackings are being staged with only one purpose in mind. According to the scrip- writers, they think in their mother of hearts that such experiences, if periodically staged and portrayed, shall intimidate some of us into wavering. At least that is their distinguishable purpose. They think that by exposing us to Tank, Barrel and Boots, we shall mellow. But they are wrong- outrightly wrong! We shall not cease to project our voices. We shan’t. We just cannot!
It is not because we wish to live lives of fugitives. No, we too love the niceties of luxury. But the whole problem is that thing called conscience. So dear! Prof. Justice G.W Kanyeihamba writes that ‘The loss of money is bad. The loss of time is worse. But the loss of name is such that no man can restore’. Some of us are not ready to lose our names. For he who fails to conquer fear shall in turn be conquered by fear along with all its attendant evils.