By Haggai Matsiko
Museveni, Mbabazi,Kayihura on the spot
Kidnapped, murdered, and disappeared. Until recently, these were words associated with the past murderous regimes of former presidents Idi Amin, Milton Obote, and Okello Lutwa. But the contradictions surrounding the disappearance of Christopher Aine, the 33-year old head of security of independent presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi, have put President Yoweri Museveni’s government and the Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura under the local and international spotlight.
Human rights experts have told The Independent that the Aine case has had a chilling effect on the population, and is being seen as the state’s way of dealing with the opposition in the run up to the 2016 elections.
Maria Burnett, the Senior Researcher for Africa at Human Rights Watch (HRW) told The Independent that there is a serious mistrust issue as far as the police is concerned.
“I have no idea as to what happened to Aine but these past cases of impunity undermine the confidence in the police and cast a shadow over cases like this,” Burnett told The Independent.
Burnett was referring to cases of targeted violence by the state from the past, which she said have never been investigated like the torture cases by JATT and RRU. Matters are not helped by the fact that “there has never been a single prosecution under the Torture Act that was passed years ago,” Burnett told The Independent.
Aine’s case has attracted massive attention not least because he is no ordinary Ugandan. He is the son of the late Julius Aine, one of the historical `44’ fighters that launched the 1981-86 war that brought President Museveni into power. His father was amongst the first bush war fighters to fall out with Museveni’s government and died under unclear circumstances. Aine is, therefore seen by some as an angry young man out to avenge the injustice suffered by his father.
Aine is also a trained soldier, who once belonged to the elite Special Forces Command (SFC), the elite army that guards President Yoweri Museveni and is headed by his son, Brig. Muhoozi Kainerugaba. The force comprises specially selected soldiers whose loyalty to Museveni is supposed to be total. Aine’s joining of Amama Mbabazi, who also once belonged to Museveni’s inner ruling club, could be viewed as the height of betrayal.
However, Aine resigned long before the campaigns and has been engaged in private work until recently when he joined Mbabazi’s camp, started doing underground mobilisation for him, until he became the head of the former prime minister’s head of security detail.
His twin sister, Ritah Babirye, says previously Aine did not seem interested in politics.
“It is possible he could have joined politics to rekindle the name of his father,” Babirye told The Independent, “I am not really sure. What I know is that Aine was not an angry man as some are saying. Aine handles you the way you come. If you come peacefully, he will treat you peacefully, if you come with force, he will deal with you too.”
While Aine’s alleged arrest and disappearance is what has attracted national attention, his boss Mbabazi on Jan.7 castigated what he called an offensive “being waged against my supporters.”
“In the last month alone, dozens who identify with the Go Forward campaign in one way or another, have been assaulted, arrested, “disappeared” and even killed,” Mbabazi said in a statement in which he went on to list real names of the victims including Aine.
Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) Executive Director, Livingstone Sewanyana told The Independent that the manner in which Aine’s matter has been handled creates a chilling effect on the population in the run up to the 2016 elections.
It also points to contradictions, Sewanyana added, because while the state claims that it always tries those who commit crimes, it is clear they are not keen on restraining anyone acting in support of President Museveni.
“We know that it is the duty of the state to protect everyone and that includes Aine,” Sewanyana said, “They (state) have a duty to produce him and try him if he committed a crime. They have to produce him because there is already a sworn affidavit showing that he was arrested by a law enforcement agent.
Makerere University Historian, Ndebesa Mwambutsya told The Independent that whether they (police) have him (Aine) or not, the way they have acted to an extent of putting a bounty of Shs20 million on someone who is charged with mere assault, has to have chilling effect on the population.
Relatives, friends speak out
Aine’s woes started when he was involved in commotion with police as they tried to arrest him in Jinja, where he was attempting to block them from disrupting his boss’s rally.
Like many youths, who have joined ranks with the opposition and especially Mbabazi, Aine assumed his new role when it became apparent that security operatives were keen on disrupting his favourite candidate’s rallies. Indeed, he first came to the lime light when he was seen in video footage defending himself against police officials who had deployed heavily to disrupt Mbabazi’s Jinja consultative rally.
Aine was later arrested and detained on the orders of the Police Chief, Gen. Kale Kayihura, who described him as a trained commando who had deserted the army.
He was later released only for police to launch another hunt for him for allegedly participating in the beating up of the ruling party supporters in Ntungamo on December 13 last year.
Mbabazi says the police rounded up and arrested a number of his supporters whom, they purport, had engaged in an overwhelming assault of innocent NRM supporters in Ntungamo.
“This is, of course, entirely false,” Mbabazi’s statement reads, “Any of my supporters who were part of the Ntungamo incident engaged solely in acts of self-defence.”
Mbabazi’s lawyers claim that Aine was arrested too and was supposed to be arraigned before court with others but was later removed from the list. They have petitioned the High Court requesting that it orders the state to present Aine or his body.
A day before Aine disappeared; he had been at a house of a friend located along Bombo road.
“While at the friend’s house,” a family source, who declined to be named, told The Independent, “Aine apparently said that he had not beaten anyone in Ntungamo.”
The next morning at 4am, a group of police officers, four in uniform and about ten in plain clothes came in two vehicles—a patrol car and a Toyota van and camped at the gate of this apartment located on Bombo Road in Kampala.
When a guard opened the gate at about 6am, they went straight to Aine’s friend’s apartment. They asked about any visitors staying at the house and how many they were. After a couple of minutes, they went to another apartment and then left without finding Aine.
When Aine’s friend contacted him, he said he had also heard what sounded like a group of people walking about around his house. It was around the same time, meaning police had launched a coordinated operation at both Aine’s house in Kyanja and his friend’s house on Bombo road.
Aine’s neighbours in Kyanja also confirmed they had seen police around his house but were not certain that he had been arrested.
However, the friend noted that after talking to Aine that morning, and Aine claiming he had heard police, his phone number ceased to be on.
“I called him several times during the day but his phone was not on,” the friend who requested not to be named said, “I haven’t heard from him since.”
It is under these circumstances that the family members recently woke up to phone calls indicating that Aine had been killed and that the picture of his body had appeared in a local tabloid.
Aine’s twin sister, Babirye, said everyone who called her on the morning of Jan.8 was saying that that was Aine in the picture.
“It looked like him,” Babirye told The Independent, “many people were also calling me saying that is Kato.”
Babirye that very morning went to the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) mortuary in Mulago. She was accompanied by younger brother, Moses Musasizi, and another Michael Mubiru. Although they reached the mortuary at about 7am, it was not until 11am that they were allowed in the mortuary.
The mortuary attendant had denied them access saying they had to wait for Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga and Police pathologist Moses Byaruhanga. The two were in the company of a Special Investigations Unit (SIU) operative.
The three were not prepared for what awaited them at the mortuary. About six naked bodies had been strewn on the floor right at the entrance of the mortuary that they literally had to jump them. The attendants at the mortuary were also new. The family was also made to sign on just a piece of paper. All these made them (Aine’s relatives) feel like something was not right.
“They had just thrown the bodies on the floor,” Mubiru told The Independent, “they never opened the freezers. We were not satisfied as a family.”
From the mortuary, they were taken to record statements after Enanga received a phone call.
They had asked to be taken to RedPepper to meet the editors for them to shed more light on the picture but police did not take them. They kept waiting until 7pm.
“We were exhausted and just decided to leave,” Babirye told The Independent. By press time, the family members were still uncertain about the whereabouts of Aine.
But there was concern that instead of doubling efforts to find Aine, the police was just interested in traumatizing his family members.
Babirye said that on Jan.11, as Musasizi, their younger brother was going to school, police arrested him and drove him around and later left him to go.
It is these sorts of arrests that make many suspect police is fully aware of Aine’s whereabouts.
Others think that like President Museveni said in Ntungamo recently that the state suspects Aine is in hiding. Whatever the case, for now it seems Gen. Kayihura has a lot of explaining to do to convince the family and a skeptical public.