Kampala — A report by the Uganda Human Rights Commission on the infamous Kiboko Squad is out. It holds police responsible for the group. The infamous squad came to light on April 17, 2007 during a political demonstration in Kampala City. As the demonstration ensued, stick-wielding men, in civilian attire, came onto the scene and whipped the demonstrators and innocent folks who happened to be along the city's streets.
The 8-page report, which is a result of investigations that begun on April 23, has been compiled by two UHRC staff; Ms Ida Nakiganda and Mr Stephen Mbarushimana. The terms of reference were to establish: who the men were; where they came from, and who mobilised them.
Pinning police, the report, a copy of which Sunday Monitor has, says; "The (TV) footage appears to indicate that a particular group of the Kiboko Squad emerged from the Central Police Station, contrary to what the authorities from police had earlier told the Commission's investigating team."
It adds: "The footage shows these men, armed with big sticks, freely running along Wilson Road and Kampala Road without any admonishment from the police. Actually the policemen were just standing and watching the events unfold without taking any action."
Police bosses happy
During one of the several interviews they had with Kampala Extra Regional Police Commander Edward Ochom, the investigators learnt that much as the group acted illegally, police as an institution appreciated the role they had played -- to quell the said demonstration.
Mr Ochom told them how police was taken by 'storm' and could not to recognise any of the men. He added that they (Kiboko Squad) appeared "at a time when police needed reinforcement" to protect innocent people's lives and property.
Nevertheless, police investigations, the RPC revealed, were going on. As of May 23, a file (CPS Vide: GF 06/007) had been opened up. But only praise statements were recorded, mainly from business people, says the report.
Like Mr Ochom, the District Police Commander, Emmanuel Muhairwe, said that although police didn't know who they were, the stick wielding men did a commendable job.
It is puzzling, the report notes, that the police which is charged with protecting the people can be taken by 'storm' and fail to establish the men's identity and where they came from, notes the report. "This would imply that anyone can take advantage of a chaotic situation and cause havoc, say its authors.
The report adds: "If it is true the police isn't aware of who the Kiboko Squad are, then, who knows? Is the police forgetting its responsibility?" It further establishes that whereas Arua Park [an area within Kampala City] was their convergence point, the men emerged from Cineplex Cinema building [along Wilson Road], the Central Police Station and Pioneer Mall [along Kampala Road] among other places.
Though clashes between stone-throwing demonstrators and the Kiboko Squad were witnessed in different parts of the city, the report reveals that the ugliest scenes were at Arua Park -- where military police personnel had to disperse them.
The investigators also established that days prior to storming Kampala streets, Kiboko Squad members underwent training at Reserve Force Training grounds at Mulago near the Doctors Village. They were among other 'skills' trained in how to use big sticks to whack people.
Whoever they were, the report notes that "the group was very organised and uniquely mobilised especially in the way they were able to select who to beat and who not to beat."
The Arua Park link was further collaborated by area LC II chairman Sam Kiwanuka who admitted to have "encouraged the Arua Boys to protect property by guarding both sides of entry to the park; which they did satisfactorily."
He, however, refused to reveal the men's names. "When he was asked who the Kiboko Squad were, he smiled and responded that the problem they had with the UHRC was that they want to look only at one side and forget the other," the report quotes Mr Kiwanuka saying. "
Has the Commission tried to establish the cause of death of the Indian who was clobbered to death and who the murderers were?" Mr Kiwanuka is quoted to have asked.
He also demanded to know why the Commission wanted to expose a group of people "who did a commendable job." He challenged them to also investigate motives behind violent demonstrations in the city.
Another LC1 chairman, Mr Takariya, said he was not in Kampala when the men stormed the streets. He said he had learnt the news from his residents. He noted, however, that the squad "at least did a good job."
In contrast to this view, the report establishes that the sight of stick-wielding men "instilled fear in the public to the extent that" on seeing them "members of the public and shop owners on Kampala Road scurried to their safety."
The report recommends that for purposes of future peaceful demonstrations, the public should be adequately sensitised on their rights and duties during public demonstrations. It also urges Parliament to 'task' government and police as its investigative institution to, in detail, explain "how and why the squad was formed since it appears [that] a section of them emerged from CPS."
It concludes by calling on government to interest itself with activities of the Kiboko Squad "because the whole saga is prone to re-occurrence as the Uganda Police has generally remained lax about the issue."
"It is not sufficient to state that they (Police) have not received complaints from the public. It is their mandate to explain to the public who these people were since they were armed with big sticks and their presence caused some chaos and instilled fear in the public."
UHRC bosses divided
UHRC chairperson Margaret Sekagya refused to comment on the report. When Sunday Monitor sounded her out on Friday, she declined comment, saying she was on leave. "May be, talk to Mr Omara Aliro who is [the] acting chairperson as of now," she said.
UHRC secretary Gordon Mwesigye said there would be a discussion about it before the report is made public."I don't know how you got it but the Commission cannot own what it has not discussed. We have to own it first, and that doesn't mean changing the original report. But that is the procedure," he said on phone. Sunday Monitor has, however, learnt that UHRC commissioners are divided on the matter.
In written statements seen by Sunday Monitor, some of the commissioners argue that for it to enjoy credibility, the report should have covered all the other militant brigades like [Mayor] Nasser Sebaggala's Youth Brigade, the NRM's Yellow Brigade, the DP's Green Belt and the G6 Pentagon High Command which prominently featured during the demonstration against the give-away of Mabira Forest on April 12.
Others say the report is too soft on police and the government. "They in fact want the investigations to begin afresh, with new terms of reference. It might have to be redone," said a source who is privy to the matter.