The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Ssemujju Nganda - Police Turning Into NRM Party Militia

On Friday last week, the new Kira Division Police Commander, Peter Nkulaiga, called me to request for an urgent meeting.

I informed him I was still at home and he offered to meet me there. When you call police for an emergency, it usually takes them an hour, but within 15 minutes the DPC had arrived, driven in a patrol pickup full of men in riot gear.

The DPC came to deliver an order from the Commander of Kampala Metropolitan Police, AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi, to the effect that if I wanted to hold a consultative rally in Bweyogerere, I should first write to him.

I had to list the category of people who would attend, speakers, specific issues to be addressed, etc. The rally should not disrupt normal business in the area, should not be held on a public road, in a market or a car park.

I told the DPC that Kaweesi was looking for excuses to interfere with my constitutional right and I was not going to give him one. In a country where settlements are by the road, where else can a leader hold his rally?

Remember that the Constitutional court ruled in the Muwanga Kivumbi petition that police has no mandate to clear or not clear public assemblies. So, where was Kaweesi getting these new powers, I asked myself.

All that citizens are required to do is inform police that there will be a public assembly. And being a law-abiding citizen, I issued this notice to Lt Gen Kale Kayihura on October 16, stating the place and time.

Moments later, the DPC returned with Kampala East Metropolitan Police Commander Yassin Ndimwibo. The order had now changed. I was no longer required to write to Kaweesi but to forget about the rally altogether!

I told these policemen that the Speaker of Parliament had actually sent us on recess to, among other things, "consult your constituents." We disagreed and they left. They resurfaced later with two patrol pickups and parked them in front of my gate. Anyone going out would now be subjected to a search. First to suffer this humiliation was my dear wife Faridah Ssemujju.

The DPC crudely drove his pickup and parked it in the middle of the entrance as she drove out. Neighbours who had now gathered near my home ululated as police fidgeted to block the entrance. Drama had just started. The ululation continued, which made police suspect that maybe I had escaped in my wife's car. They quickly started the chase.

I took advantage and drove out quickly for the Friday prayers in Bweyogerere. Someone tipped them that I was at the mosque and they dispatched three pickups to besiege it. To cut the long story short, after the prayers I walked to Bweyogerere and police brutally dragged me into a waiting pickup before I had even greeted my electorate. I think you now know what police uses the Shs 311bn for. Fuelling pick-ups to run after opposition leaders and provide operational allowance to senior commanders deployed in this political chess.

After roughing me up, one police commander told me: "Honourable, you have scored."

To him, being humiliated before your electorate is a score. He forgets that I was not overwhelmingly elected because I had been involved in a confrontation with police, or anyone for that matter. As you may now know, I was charged with participating in an unlawful assembly. A Member of Parliament meeting people who elected him has now become unlawful. For the meeting to be lawful, you must first write to Kaweesi listing who will attend, speak or dance.

The unfortunate bit is that these Kaweesis went to school and are expected to know the danger that lies in stifling civil liberties. They have turned Museveni's overwhelming appetite for power into a security issue. To them, challenging Museveni is a crime for which a Member of Parliament must be dragged along the road and dumped on a pickup like a sack of charcoal.

What Kaweesi and company forget is that Museveni has a few more years remaining. Of course he is a hugely selfish being who would rather go down with Uganda, but this won't be possible. When he is finally gone, the Kaweesis will be asked to account for their actions.

This is the reason Libyans are still hunting down the late Gaddafi's henchmen long after his death.

The meeting in Bweyogerere was to specifically address corruption at Kira Town Council and, of course, other issues. There is hardly anything, in terms of quality services, to show for all the local revenue and money sent from the treasury. Kira is now one huge town but has not a single pickup truck to collect rubbish.

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