30 December 2012

Uganda: How Nsereko Ended Up in Tororo

Kadaga calls detained MP:

On December 28, some MPs moved to free their detained colleagues, Dr Chris Baryomunsi (Kinkiizi East) and Mohammad Nsereko (Kampala Central) who had been held by police without charge beyond the constitutional 48-hours.

Led by Shadow Attorney General, Abdu Katuntu, and East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) representative, Fred Mukasa Mbidde, both lawyers, the lawmakers filed a petition before the Chief Magistrate's court in Nakawa, demanding the unconditional release of their detained colleagues.

The Chief Magistrate, Joyce Bahinguza Kabaye, received the petition on the same day, December 28, but surprisingly asked the lawyers to return to court on Monday to plead their client's release. The MPs were not only vexed but baffled by the decision. As they pondered their next move, they received information that Nsereko had been transferred from his detention cell at the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in Kireka, near Kampala, and was being rushed to either Butaleja or Tororo, where he would be formally charged with inciting violence.

Earlier on, the chairperson of the Buganda Parliamentary caucus, Godfrey Kiwanda, had received information that Dr Baryomunsi would be formally charged at the Buganda Road court. Kiwanda quickly marshalled a legal team led by Katuntu and Mbidde as well as sureties who included Brenda Nabukenya and Mathias Nsubuga. He also telephoned the Leader of Opposition, Nathan Nandala Mafabi, who was already in Tororo to organise a legal team as well as sureties to help Nsereko in case the MP was charged in court there.

Nsereko was by now being driven to Tororo in a police pickup truck, seated next to his counsel, Kampala Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago. The vehicle was cruising at break-neck speed. Amongst those who drove closely behind the police truck were Nsereko's wife and MPs Kiwanda, Haruna Kasolo, Patrick Nsanja and Medard Sseggona. In Tororo, a legal team comprising Charles Gyabi, Sauda Nsereko, Hanifah Nabukeera and Edward Muyuse had already been assembled.

Drama unfolds:

However, on reaching Namanve, Lukwago was ordered out of the police vehicle. He returned to Kampala. Later on, Sseggona received information that the police had heavily deployed at the Jinja bridge to block vehicles of MPs that were trailing Nsereko. Kiwanda asked the Jinja mayor, Muhammad Kezaala, who was waiting for Nsereko's convoy in Jinja to drive towards the bridge and ascertain whether this was true.

Sseggona had also received information that Nsereko was being tortured. He phoned the Iganga Municipality MP, Peter Mugema, and urged him to mobilise wananchi to block the road at Iganga. However, Mugema, who had left Iganga and was almost reaching Tororo, said Nsereko was safe. At around 4:45pm, amidst tight security, a haggard-looking Nsereko was driven into the compound of the Tororo Chief Magistrate's court where he was kept in a vehicle for about 40 minutes.

He finally appeared before the Chief Magistrate, Charles Emuria, to face the charge of inciting violence. Prosecution led by one Bwiso alleged that Nsereko made inflammatory statements meant to incite violence during the burial of Cerinah Nebanda.

According to the charge sheet, Nsereko said: "...Oli tawulidde sebuto buto [ssebbuttobbuto] mumugambe yalidde nsangi ... ono Sabaminista aleese obubaka... abadde anywa omwenge... abantu banno batwagazaki? Abantu bano tubalinzaki? Abantu bano tubakolereki?"

Nsereko's counsel Charles Gyabi told court that his client could not take plea because the charge sheet was flawed and was in vernacular. He said it could not be proven that the words Nsereko uttered amount to incitement of violence. The prosecutor Bwiso asked court to give the state a chance to amend the charge sheet. Sseggona, however, couldn't hear of it.

"The charge sheet does not only offend Articles 28 and 50 (1) of the Constitution, it is miserably defective for non-disclosure of particulars of the offence. Whereas there is an attempt by the state to put purported words on the alleged charge sheet to the extent that these words are not particularized in the language of court, there are no particulars of the charge at all," argued Sseggona before a packed court room.

Much as the chief magistrate agreed with the defence team that the charge sheet was defective, he ruled that since the law allows prosecution to amend the charge sheet, he was remanding Nsereko at Morakatipe government prison in Tororo until Monday.

Sseggona attacks magistrate:

A discontented Sseggona rushed to the magistrate's chambers after the session and told him to his face that his decision to remand the accused without a charge sheet was flawed. He threatened to drag him to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for disciplinary action.

The magistrate pleaded with Sseggona to remain calm till tomorrow when Nsereko will be arraigned in court again.

Nsereko fires salvo:

Nsereko was offered a one-inch mattress and a pair of bed sheets. Comparing himself to the iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela, Nsereko asked his voters to storm Tororo tomorrow and promised that upon his release, he would put the state on tenterhooks.

"I urge Ugandans who need change to be firm because I now have more courage to fight for justice just like Nelson Mandela did. God bless Uganda and everyone who is yearning for change," Nsereko said with clenched fists.

He spoke to the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, on phone before he was whisked away to prison. Mafabi told The Observer that what he had just witnessed was "a terrible injustice."

The MPs, who had spent the day without a meal for fear of being poisoned, travelled deep inside Iganga for supper. Here, the lawmakers agreed to drum up support amongst their colleagues to give Nsereko a heroic welcome if he is released tomorrow.

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