Uganda’s security forces are under scrutiny after a video surfaced showing plain clothed officers brutally beating and arresting a civilian on the street. Uganda’s army spokesman says the troops are facing a disciplinary committee but the family of the victim says they are not being told what happened to their relative.
The video of five plain clothed officers as they brutally arrested Yusuf Kawooya sparked outrage in Uganda.
Each armed with an AK-47 rifle, the men in broad daylight grabbed Kawooya in the street. As he fell on the road, the unknown security men pounced.
One man used the butt of his rifle to repeatedly hit Kawooya in the lower abdomen before he was taken away.
Kawooya’s sister Sharifah Nakitende said since the assault last Thursday, her family has not been able to get authorities to tell them why her elder brother was arrested or where he is being held.
“The trauma that is in the children. The fear and our mother, all the family members they are in shock. The biggest fear is; my brother may not be alive. He was badly tortured,” she said.
After the video of the beating and arrest was made public, the Ugandan Army and police forces initially denied any knowledge of the five security men.
But on Friday evening, Army Spokesman Brigadier Richard Karemire released photos of the men appearing before a disciplinary committee.
Without identifying the men or their unit, the five were charged with conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline. The army said they pleaded guilty to the charges, which carry a maximum punishment of disgraceful discharge.
Army and police spokespeople have refused to comment further on the matter, saying it is before the court.
But the brutal arrest left many Ugandans like Anthony Mukalazi in shock.
“The manner in which a fellow Ugandan can be arrested. We had gotten used to sticks. Now if you can and you arrest and thumping people with guns, it shows the level of impunity that the country has. So, it was really heartbreaking and as Ugandans you cannot be sure that you will be safe the next time someone comes to arrest you.” said Mukalazi.
Kawooya, a businessman, is a member of the opposition People Power group created by musician turned opposition politician Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine.
Wine was himself arrested in August, allegedly tortured, and charged with treason, along with other opposition lawmakers. Authorities accused them of throwing stones at President Yoweri Museveni’s car.
Human rights lawyer Nicholas Opio said Ugandans are living in what is nearly a rogue state.
“Every single day there are countless stories of innocent civilians who have disappeared in the hands of gun wielding non-uniformed individuals. I think for me it’s a shadow state. It’s a very dangerous practice whose sole intention is to instill fear. Whose sole intention is to target regime opponents,” he said.
Opio said the rest of the world needs to know that the pretense about Uganda being democratic and civil is no longer believable.
He said foreign powers that supply weapons to Uganda need to question whether their support is being used to violate human rights.
Source: Voice of America