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Will Nov. 2020 riot victims ever get justice?

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga meeting family of Nakitto Hadijah on Thursday April 15, 2021

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT  |  On November 18th.Hajjarah Nakitto was running away from the city with her 15-year old son to escape a  riotous situation. Her son, Amos Ssegawa was shot  in the mouth and he died on the spot. 

Her pain and trauma have been prolonged by subsequent events including being forced to exhume and then rebury her dear child at the family’s double expense. The family has had to waiting indefinitely for the compensation pledged by the president Museveni at the peak of the campaigns.

On Monday Nakitto staged a lone protest at the gate of parliament seeking justice as she sought for her killed son.

Nakitto was also seeking the attention of the  Speaker of Parliament,  Rebecca Kadaga whom she thought would help the family to meet the president. Museveni at the end of November, 2020 promised that government would compensate innocent victims of the riots.

On November 30th Museveni said he had received a report from Director of Criminal Investigations Directorate, Grace Akullo indicating that 32 of 54 people who died in the riots were rioters, meaning that 22 were innocent civilians killed by stray bullets.

“The government will compensate those who lost their lives and properties, but we shall not compensate those who died and were rioters; no way,” he said.

The president’s remark was taken as promissory note to the families that lost relatives. But what remained unclear was when families would receive the compensation. But the President’s office and other government officials have since been quiet about the matter. 

Happy Namatovu Ssempaka, a National Resistance Movement councilor representing People with Disabilities (PWDs) at Kawempe Division also lost her 16-year-old son, Gift Samuel Nsubuga in the riots. Like other families, she equally has been waiting for compensation.

As a ruling party councilor, Namatovu told URN that she raised the issue at meeting of Kampala party flag bearers in December. 

State House officials who attended the meeting promised that her issue would be handled expeditiously. 

“They had even promised to take me to the president,” she said. “When I ask, they say, they are still working on it. I have not received anything.”    “As an NRM person, I did not want to take the issue to court,” she said.

 When is compensation coming?   

Called thrice, Don Wanyama, the President’s Senior Press Secretary said he had no details regarding compensation. Several ministers contacted did not pick or return phone calls.


Investigations still ongoing    

The spokesperson of Criminal Investigations Department (CID) Twine Charles said they are still meticulously investigating riot killings. 

He said CID “is in position to know who died of what and what caused death.” Twine said CID has been able to complete part of investigation of people who were “justifiably killed.” 

The focus now, he says, is on comprehensive probe to understand circumstances under which people died of stray bullets.

For Nakitto, Twine says if she is interested in knowing how far police has gone with investigation of her son’s murder, she should go to CID.

“We will explain to her the status of investigation. She needs to be a bit patient.”

But Nakitto has been to CID. And the update report she received doesn’t indicate any progress of investigation. She visited CID on February 2nd 2021 and received the report on 26th February, 2021.

The thrust of the two-page report she received reads; “according to the Forensic Pathologist who exhumed the body of the deceased and performed postmortem examination, established cause of death to be neurogenic shock following head trauma.” Its concludes; “Investigations are still ongoing to bring culprits to justice.”

Even when CID say it is still investigating, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sam Kutesa early this week met ambassadors of Permanent UN members in Uganda and shared with them a “report compiled by government of Uganda following investigation into riots” of November 18th 2020.

The Minister of Internal Affairs Jeje Odongo yesterday presented a statement on missing persons in parliament, noting that out of the list of 423 people National Unity Platform -NUP claim are missing, government can only account for 58 people. He did not talk about progress of investigations.

 Public relations stunt   

Human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo argues Museveni and security agencies have been involved in a public relations exercise of gas-lighting the public in attempts to manage “what was a gruesome two days of extra-judicial killings.”

Whatever the president and security agencies said was an attempt to assuage public anger about the killings.

Opiyo says the president has been blaming dead people knowing that they cannot speak for themselves. “How can you say that people who were are involved in what the president call riot were rioters? Even if they were rioters, you cannot use that to justify the extra-judicial killings at the hands of security operatives.”

He says rioters should have been arrested and produced in courts of law instead of killing them.

To get justice and compensation, Opiyo says people whose children were killed should come out and speak.

“Many are afraid, but people must muster the courage to tell their stories,” he says. “If people speak out, lawyers can accurately document what happened and then seek justice for them.”

“Going to court might be the only option to compel the state to own up to the unlawful act and get compensation to these individuals,” he says.

Nakitto and her family finally met Kadaga yesterday. The speaker tweeted that she had a “sad mid-morning” when listening to their “harrowing account.”

“I will help the couple get justice,” Kadaga said.



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