Opposition fear foreign-based critics could become new targets of government following disappearance of notorious Turkey-based vlogger
Kampala, Uganda | IAN KATUSIIME | The Independent recently held a very revealing interview with the Attorney General, Kiryowa Kiwanuka, on the whereabouts of Fred Kajjubi Lumbuye; the missing critic of the government and President Yoweri Museveni.
The Turkey-based Ugandan vlogger suddenly went missing on Aug.3 and there have been reports that he was deported to Uganda and is to be arraigned before the courts of law soon.
Initially, it was believed Lumbuye was arrested by Turkish authorities with the go ahead of their Ugandan counterparts. There was suspicion that he was being held incommunicado in a Ugandan dungeon by high ranking security operatives either Special Forces Command (SFC) or Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) since he was deported. So The Independent asked the Attorney General about his whereabouts.
“I have no comment on that,” Kiryowa Kiwanuka said when asked about three weeks ago.
Don’t you think his rights are being violated? The Independent asked.
“I do not like to speak on something I do not have facts on,” Kiryowa Kiwanuka said, “What if he is in his house? We cannot speak about his rights being violated when we do not know where he is?”
Kiryowa Kiwanuka’s response captures the predicament of government officials like the Attorney General whenever accusations are leveled against the government but only rogue actors of the state appear to be in charge of the action.
The state clampdown on critical voices, especially on members of the largest opposition party in parliament; the National Unity Platform (NUP) of Bobi Wine, is such a case. Whenever the rogue actors come into play, official state actors are left at sea. And, as the Lumbuye case shows, the actions of the rogue actors appear to leave government critics perturbed.
Lumbuye is a staunch supporter of Bobi Wine, the NUP party leader who ran against Museveni in the 2021 presidential elections.
His identity makes him a target for the security apparatus that early in the year arrested, kidnapped and allegedly tortured hundreds of supporters for Bobi Wine.
Lumbuye’s case has garnered attention in the country and Twitter sphere because he was detained a la Jamal Kashoggi style. Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist who was kidnapped by Saudi commandos when he entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
Kashoggi was brutally murdered as a result of his criticism of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. His remains were never recovered. That is why there is concern and apprehension about Lumbuye’s continued disappearance. Anything is possible.
“He is here but the strategy of the government is not to arraign him in court because they think he will embarrass them,” a security source said at the time of great confusion on Lumbuye’s whereabouts.
Enter Zaake, Nkunyingi
Soon after, opposition party leaders poured fuel on the fire of speculation when they claimed to travel to Turkey purportedly to search for Lumbuye.
Muwada Nkunyingi, the MP for Kyadondo East MP and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, says he spent five days in Turkey searching for Lumbuye.
Nkunyingi says he scoured prisons and detention centres in Istanbul, the economic capital of Turkey, but his search was in vain. Nkunyingi travelled with Anthony Wameli, the head of legal for NUP.
The two went to Turkey after a more high profile visit by Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake who is a parliamentary commissioner. Zaake announced on his Twitter page that he was travelling to the country to coordinate a search for his comrade Lumbuye. This was on Aug. 7 just as news of Lumbuye’s alleged kidnap by authorities was going viral.
But the government said Zaake had travelled as part of a delegation of Parliamentary Commissioners and other MPs on official government business for a benchmarking visit. It was a coincidence that he was travelling to Turkey at the time a Ugandan based in the country was said to be under detention for spreading anti-government propaganda. Zaake, however, used the opportunity to drum up a social media campaign on Lumbuye.
This was last month in August when Lumbuye’s disappearance added to the headache of a tumultuous international image that the Ugandan government has suffered since the violent 2021 presidential election campaigns and aftermath.
Before his disappearance, in July, Lumbuye had been cited by some sections of the public for allegedly spreading rumours on social media regarding President Museveni. Museveni reacted furiously to the rumours and demanded for a manhunt for whoever was responsible. Now the President’s angry reaction is believed to be the reason for Lumbuye’s disappearance and fear among the opposition. (⏩ Pg 2)