By Agnes .E. Nantaba
News about the disappearance of Norman Tumuhimbise, the National Coordinator for the Jobless Brotherhood a group of graduates who have failed to get jobs made headlines. Many took to social media to announce that the soft spoken father of a two-year-old daughter had passed on. Two months after his mysterious disappearance, the 30 year old still nurses physical and psychological wounds from torture.
“I get nightmares. I see strange faces chasing me in my dreams that at times I am forced to scream. I also tend to hear people moving around my house even when they are not there”. This condition recently forced him to visit a psychiatrist at a Kampala hospital and was initiated on treatment.
Tumuhimbise who is one of the pioneers of Police Training School Kabalye was kidnapped on the evening of Aug 19 after he and colleagues successfully dropped two piglets painted in different colours at parliament, as a way of demonstrating against parliamentarians who they refer to as greedy politicians who focus on their selfish interests rather than the needs of the people they represent. He told The Independent that as he approached the gate at his home based in Kasubi, a low end suburb of Kampala, a gentle man called him by name before requesting to have a chat with him in his Runyankore mother tongue. As he turned to talk to the stranger, the phone rang and all of sudden two men got hold of his hands from the back deterring him from picking the call.
He was there and then carried to a Toyota Noah which had parked just adjacent to him. Tumuhimbise became unconscious only to wake up in a very dark room that he couldn’t see the people or a thing around him.
“I only felt a chair and table in front of me. I was feeling so much pain in the back and the joints but I couldn’t tell the cause. What I vividly remember is the voice that pierced through the dark”. Three different men asked him the same questions using different tactics. The first one was very harsh whereas the other two used a low tone. The first man who referred to him as og’omwiru (this peasant) interrogated him in the local language Runyankore asking about who funds the brotherhood and that he explains more about the message they had attached to the piglets that read, ‘we may resolve to have temporary instability if it can guarantee permanent stability of our motherland Uganda’. He also asked about where Tumuhimbise got the information he used in his new book titled “Unsowing the Mustard Seed.”
Tumuhimbise’s response that no one funds them and that he had got information from the President’s close associates annoyed the seemingly arrogant man who ordered that they spray directly into his eyes. The very painful chemical in that spray has affected him so much that he can’t read or walk in the sun without specs. Whenever he removes them, tears endlessly flow. Since his release on Aug 26, Tumuhimbise’s troubles have been on an increase. The Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU) from where he had been pursuing a Bachelors Degree in Law expelled him because of his association with pigs yet his landlord of seven years on Sept 01 issued him a notice to vacate the premises because of too much inconvenience regarding the issue of security.
“Recently I found a gentle man at my place. When he left, the landlord told me that he is one of the men who have been frequenting the premises telling him to chase me. To my surprise I found the same man dressed in police uniform at Old Kampala police station when I went to record a statement”.
Deprived of parenthood, Kaggwa is scared of living with his children
Looking at Kaggwa’s face and hands, you could think he is an accident victim. He has numerous scars. But when he introduces himself as Vicent Kaggwa, the spokesperson of the NRM poor youth, it tells the whole story. One will understand what happened especially if you are the type that watches the local bulletins.
Kaggwa together with colleagues in the party who support former Secretary General Amama Mbabazi have been hoping from one police cell to another following numerous demonstrations on Kampala streets which in most occasions end in serious injuries as they engage in scuffles with the police.
Kaggwa told The Independent that he’s no longer scared of being beaten or sprayed with tear gas for he expects this whenever he goes out to demonstrate. But, July 16 scared the 25 year old youth activist. He never anticipated it for he had no plans of striking but was only arranging a trip to Kenya. At 10 am, while at his home in Katanga, a filthy slum in Kampala, three Toyota Noah cars arrived. An unspecified number of plain clothed men armed with pistols jumped out.
“When I heard the cars park, I went to the window to see who had arrived but in less than a minute they were already inside meanwhile people started gathering at my house. They shot in the air to disperse them”.
Kazibwe who has since relocated his children said all he thought about was to first hide them and then deal with the strangers. But, he didn’t have enough time to do this. They threw him in the car and drove away. He later learnt that they were the Police flying squad. They took him to Central Police Station (CPS) before eventually driving off to Entebbe road. Along the way he became unconscious and woke up in a place he couldn’t recognize.
“They woke me up by beating my ribs with very cold water. It was so painful but not as beating my toes with a metallic rod. When I couldn’t answer their question about why I support Mbabazi, they slapped my ears and the face hard”.
For the four days they held him, Kazibwe’s hands and legs had been tied on the chair. They could only untie the hands whenever they brought him food.
His arrest attracted hashtag #freeVicent which went viral on social media. This online demonstration helped Kaggwa and he was returned to CPS as early as 5am and by 6 am he was out.
“Everything was done fast. They gave me a bond without a stamp. They even gave me transport but ordered me not talk to anyone, not even the media”.
A month later on Aug 26 security operatives returned to Kaggwa’s house. This time at around 2 am on a Wednesday morning for a house search. They said he was suspected of owning illegal fire arms.
Without a search warrant, they dashed into the house pulled out everything but nothing was recovered. In their usual manner of shooting in the air to scare away the neighbors, they instead went away with Kaggwa. Five of his neighbors were arrested too.
Mugasha was arrested while collecting signatures
The King of Tooro, Oyo NyimbaIguru celebrated his 20th anniversary (Empango) on Sept 12. Empango is always a day to reckon with in Fort Portal for most aristocratic Batooro and well-wishers throng the western Uganda town in anticipation. Gilbert Jomo Mugasha, a supporter of Amama Mbabazi saw this as an opportunity to hit two birds with one stone since so many people would show up for the royal ceremony.
“I didn’t get time to talk to supporters on 12th so I decided to get my aspirant’s nomination forms signed the following day which was a Sunday”, he told The Independent.
As a person who stays away from home, he had planned to visit several relatives after collecting signatures. Little did he know he would spend the next two days in a police cell.
“ I was confident that I was doing nothing wrong in volunteering for Amama Mbabazi only to be arrested like a chicken thief by the District Police Commander (DPC) of Kabarole “ At around 10 am on Sept13, Mugasha who was driving from Boma, an upscale village located a few kilometers south of the town made a stopover at a bodaboda stage in Mpanga market along the Fort Portal- Kampala highway. At the stage were about seven riders who he gave the forms to sign but in about 10 minutes, the District Internal Security Officer (DISO) who he later learnt was called Edmond Kamanyire had arrived. In another few minutes of argument DPC Geoffrey Nkaheebwa arrived in a Toyota Premio. He was there and then bundled in the car and driven off.
Nkaheebwa who has since been transferred told Mugasha that the district supports only one presidential candidate and they would not let him continue with the exercise. The officer destroyed the forms in addition to giving him several slaps before reaching the Central Police Station located in Boma. Meanwhile, he was made to leave his car behind.
“The car arrives later being driven by the DISO and then the DPC orders us to witness a search. They ransack the whole car but in vain, spilling all over documents and belongings”
All of a sudden, a plain clothed police officer recovers notes of 50000 thousand shillings counterfeit money allegedly recovered from the car, a thing that shocked Mugasha. To him, this was an intentional act done to frame him. In fact it gave them a reason to torture him the more for he was beaten and kicked by the DPC whenever he tried to speak.
A victim of circumstance
Robin Wabulembo, a Makerere University youth activist didn’t have to take a taxi or a bodaboda (motorcycle) from Jinja road to Uganda National Theatre to catch his 3pm appointment. It’s a walk able distance and in fact it takes less than twenty minutes for one to reach. However, his journey was intercepted when the police arrested him as he approached Embassy House, the building which hosts Ministry of Education offices.
“As I walked, I saw a number of police officers standing but didn’t mind them so I moved on. But a few steps ahead, two men grabbed both my hands from behind. I was so scared with the talk of torture chambers and safe houses in town”.
Wabulembo was immediately bundled in a double cabin with officers sitting side by side. They immediately drove to the eastern gate of parliament from where more six youths were arrested.
Little did he know that on the same afternoon of Sept 29, a group of activists had stormed parliament to demand for electoral reforms. They held placards with writings and shouted on top of their voices that they wanted electoral reforms.
In the double cabin, Wabulembo saw some 15 to 20 youths negotiating with security to let them into parliament.
“I couldn’t recognize any of them. When I asked the six that joined me in the car, they were also not aware of what exactly was going on. The officers drove us to CPS”.
At the police station, more and more people kept joining them. It’s from here that he realized he was arrested because of rioting since he met Kawempe mayor Mubaraka Munyagwa with whom they have engaged in several demonstrations in the city before.
When he tried to inquire about why he was arrested, the officer beat him on the head with the baton. As if that wasn’t enough the officer whose uniform had no name or number sprayed teargas into them while in the cell. They were helpless. Wabulembo said it was by the mercy of God that no one among them fainted.
Even though the beating would increase whenever he tried to ask, he didn’t stop making noise until the group was separated. Some were taken to Jinja road police station yet others to Kiira road police station.
“I spent two painful days at Kiira road. Though I don’t know the name of the officer who tortured me, I might not forget his face because he slapped and kicked me several times telling me that am an enemy of the state. From Kiira road, they took me back to CPS to meet the rest of the people I was arrested with”. While the rest were released on police bond, Wabulembo and Munyagwa were taken to court and released on a cash bond of Shs 300,000.
Additional reporting by Agnes E. Nantaba