Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | James Akena, a photo journalist with Reuters has dragged the Attorney General to court seeking damages because of torture by the military. Akena was battered by UPDF soldier down town Kampala on August 20, 2018 while covering protests.
He appeared in a photo, which went viral on social media, on his knees while being battered by soldiers. Akena has filed an application before the Civil Division of High Court through his lawyers of AF Mpanga seeking damages to the tune of Shillings 100million.
In his application, Akena says that he was beaten by soldiers on August 20th, 2018 while on duty as a photojournalist. Akena alleges that around 11am exactly one year ago, he was attracted by people going about their business around Kiseka market at the intersections of Kyagwe Road/Nakivubi Road in Kampala as they were hiding and running for safety.
He reportedly started taking pictures of the events including those where several UPDF and police men were firing live rounds of ammunition in the air while dispersing a demonstration protesting the arrest of Kyadondo East MP, Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine. According to Akena, a group of soldiers descended on him and started battering him.
He explains that the soldiers assaulted him, forcefully confiscated his camera and took Shillings 3.9 million he had in his pocked. “The plaintiff(Akena) was repeatedly struck on various parts of his body by the three men, arrested, rough bundled onto a truck which drove the plaintiff and others to Qualicel Bus Terminal while they continued to be assaulted physically and verbally”, reads the application.
He notes that he was taken to Central Police Station Kampala Cells for about five hours and was released following the intervention of Luke Owoyesigyire, the then Kampala Metropolitan Area Police Spokesperson currently deputy spokesperson.
Akena explains that he reported a case of assault vide SD59/28/08/2018 and was referred to the Police Surgeon for medical examination. He however, says his matter has never been investigated since then.
He wants court to grant him Shillings 101 million in compensation for the damage caused to him. According to the break down, Akena wants Shillings 3.9 million for lost cash, Shillings 450,000 for a Casio Watch, Shillings 800,000 eye glasses and Shillings 1.2 million for Cracked Techno Smart Phone.
He also wants Shillings 28million (USD 7500) for loss of Canon Camera DX Black Body type, Shillings 700,000 for medical treatment, transport to and from hospitals Shillings 600,000, loss of earnings because of failure to work from the Month of Septempter, 2018 to February, 2019 valued at USD 2, 900 per month (total of 65 millions).
President Museveni has since said Akena was beaten by soldiers who mistook him for thief since he couldn’t be identified properly as a journalist. Brigadier Richard Karemire, the Ministry of Defense and Veteran Affairs /UPDF Spokesperson, issued a statement regretting the incident.
Akena’s file has been allocated to Justice Henrietta Wolayo who will fix it for hearing.