By Nathan Nandala Mafabi and Mathias Mpuuga
Another example of the police working for the political interests of the NRM dictatorship rather than the security of the people
We are issuing this statement on behalf of all opposition leaders and activists in order to set the record straight about the events of Wednesday 21st March 2011 and also to respond to deliberate misinformation and outrageous allegations that have been leveled against us following those events.
Wednesday’s activity was not an A4C activity. It was an event held at the behest of the Mayor of Kampala City, Erias Lukwago who invited his colleague the Mayor of Kawempe, the Woman Member of Parliament for Kampala and FDC President Kizza Besigye to accompany him and advise him as he inspected development activities and services in the city. The Mayor notified police in writing, which he did not have to do; and his letter was acknowledged. The police was therefore fully aware of the activity that took place on Wednesday and in fact they joined the touring party early on and walked along until the time they decided to disrupt the Mayor’s legitimate activity.
The visit went on smoothly with the population expressing excitement and jubilation upon seeing their leaders taking an active interest in their welfare. The police joined the group of leaders almost at the beginning of the visit and moved alongside them on Kafumbe Mukasa Road, Namirembe Road and on to Ben Kiwanuka Road; without incident. The situation only changed for the worse when the Mayor was stopped from proceeding along Ben Kiwanuka Road bringing his visit to a premature halt.
Once the Mayor and his entourage were stopped, the crowd around them grew bigger but it was still a happy crowd until Police decided to disperse the crowd by brutally beating innocent people with batons and spraying them with teargas and pepper spray. Police’s brutal actions were uncalled for and it was their actions that led to unfortunate scenes of violence, which we condemn strongly. This was another clear example where the police worked for the political interests of the NRM dictatorship rather than the security interests of the people of Kampala.
We have since been informed by the police that Asst. Inspector of Police John Bosco Ariong died from injuries sustained during the fracas that was started by the Police. We wish to extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends. We’re keenly aware that most police men are as frustrated as the rest of the citizenry and also look forward to the day when their living conditions can be improved. We are disappointed that government has been quick to blame opposition leaders and activists for his death even before investigating the matter.
We wish to reiterate our commitment to using non-violent means to bring about political changes in our country. This commitment is ideological and strategic because we firmly believe that use of violence will maintain the vicious cycle of repression, injustice and instability. We want, for the first time in Uganda’s history; to transfer power from the guns to the people of Uganda. It is this prospect that causes fear and panic to the military dictatorship.
The public is aware that the government has for some time tried to criminalize the increasingly popular protests and rallies by opposition activists in a bid to silence all dissent and opposition to government’s unpopular policies and corrupt practices. Last October, the Inspector General of Police made public statements attempting to link Activists for Change to Taliban terrorists and Al qaeda. These wild allegations failed to gain traction even with A4C’s strongest critics and in a bid to salvage their mission of criminalizing the opposition; the Police slapped charges of treason on several A4C organizers and activists. As opposition activities have grown in popularity, security forces have become more desperate and reckless in their shenanigans to incriminate activists so much so that some quarters have suggested that Mr. Ariong may have been sacrificed to further their evil plans.
We therefore call on the authorities to ensure a quick and thorough investigation into the death of John Bosco Ariong in order to find answers to the questions raised by the manner in which he died. Specifically, a postmortem must be carried out to establish the cause of death and the object used to cause death. Reports indicate that nine suspects have been charged with the murder yet it is inconceivable that nine people in a crowd threw one object that caused the death.
We do not recall the government reacting with such conviction against violence when unarmed civilians were killed by those supposed to protect them. As we mourn the death of John Bosco Ariong, we wish to remember all unarmed civilians including baby Juliana Gift Nalwanga (Masaka), Dan Musa Wasaga (Gulu), Adoni Mugisu, Charles Odur, Semuga Kanabi (Nakivubo), Sam Mufumbiro ( Owino), Frank kizito (Masajja), Wilber Mugalazi (Bweyogerere), Augustine Guwatudde (Namasuba), James Mukibi and others who have died at the hands of reckless armed security officers during legitimate public protests in recent times.
The death of Mr. Ariong has given the government a new platform to intensify repression against opposition activists and regrettably, Mr. Museveni is calling for the speedy passing of an unconstitutional law to deny bail to protestors as a deterrent for protests against his government. His characteristic response to crush protestors is a threat that we shall ignore as we go about our duties as opposition leaders and activists.
These deaths should act as motivation to strengthen our commitment to the Bill of Rights and not to further curtail our civil rights and liberties. As opposition leaders and activists we shall not be intimidated by threats of violence and incarceration and we shall continue to engage the public and to execute our legitimate roles.
Nathan Nandala Mafabi is the Leader of Opposition in Parliament and
Mathias Mpuuga, is the MP for Masaka Municipality and Coordinator of Activists for Change (A4C).