15 January 2013

Uganda: How Lyomoki Was Netted

The fallout from Butaleja Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda's death claimed a fifth political scalp today.

Workers MP Dr Sam Lyomoki, who was arrested today morning after a talk show at WBS TV offices in Naguru, could face charges in Kampala and Tororo. According to Police spokesperson Vincent Ssekate, Lyomoki is wanted over utterances he made during the funeral of former Butaleja MP Cerinah Nebanda, last month.

The MP will also face charges relating to his involvement in Nebanda's postmortem examination. Lyomoki was by press time still held at the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) headquarters in Kireka. According to his lawyers - MPs Gerald Karuhanga (Youth Western), Abdul Katuntu (Bugweri) and Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East), Lyomoki faces two charges; conspiracy to commit a felony and another charge yet to be established.

How he was arrested

According to the summons issued by police, Lyomoki was scheduled to report to the SIU on Monday (January 14). He was supposed to have appeared before the police along with Dr Chris Baryomunsi (MP Kinkiizi East), Dr Medard Bitekyerezo (MP Mbarara municipality), Betty Nambooze Bakireke (MP Mukono municipality) and Emmanuel Dombo (Bunyole East).

While the others have already reported, with Baryomunsi even charged, Lyomoki failed to turn up. According to police, Lyomoki who recently returned from South Sudan called a press conference at Parliament where he again announced that he would not go to police. It is from here that he established contact with WBS TV to appear on their morning talk show.

As the show set off, two police trucks parked outside the WBS gate, raising curiosity among the TV staff. Some sent him a text message.

"He learnt of the impending arrest while he was still on air. The way they [police] were positioned raised suspicion among the WBS TV staff who tipped me off. He called me to come and pick the car," Robert Matuku, the Acting Secretary General of the Central Organization of Free Trade Unions (COFTU), said.

After the TV show, Lyomoki is said to have stayed inside the WBS building until Matuku arrived. The MP then swiftly moved out and locked himself inside his car. The police, led by Kira Road Division Police Commander Robert Walugembe, ordered him out. But Lyomoki, who was by now busy on his phone, ignored them.

"They threatened to break into his car and get him out by force," Matuku added.

Lyomoki was talked into coming out of the car by Matuku. He was then driven around the city until he was finally taken to the Special Investigations Unit in Kireka.

At Kireka, a group of COFTU members, including Workers MP Mary Tunde and Lyomoki's wife Margaret Kamondi Lyomoki, gathered outside the SIU gate where they were denied access to the legislator.

"He was arrested very early in the morning before he had eaten anything. Why don't you at least allow his wife to take to him something to eat?" COFTU Chairman General Christopher Kahirita pleaded.

A police officer later came and told the group that Lyomoki's wife would not be allowed in since the police didn't know her. Only five MPs, including Joseph Ssewungu (Kalungu West), Lulume Bayiga (Buikwe South), Gerald Karuhanga (Youth Western), Abdul Katuntu (Bugweri) and Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) were allowed in.

Lyomoki detention

Several MPs fear that Lyomoki's detention could take longer than expected.

"One officer told us that they can only release him after receiving a command from President Museveni," MP Lulume Bayiga told journalists at Kireka SIU.

Meanwhile, his colleagues were, by press time, preparing to file an application in court for his immediate release.

"This drama is unacceptable, that is why we say Parliament should reconvene and we discuss some of these excesses. The police should respect the rule of law. You cannot simply incarcerate someone before you understand the charges against him," Katuntu said.

But acting Police Spokesperson Vincent Ssekate told The Observer that the police were still within the constitutional 48 hours.

"We have been looking for him but could not trace his whereabouts. We were only seeing him on the news, and that's why when we learnt that he was at WBS, we went for him because he has to substantiate the utterances he made in Butaleja," Ssekate added.

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