Fahamu (Oxford)

Uganda: How Bishop Niringiye's Anticorruption Crusade Landed Him in Captivity

analysis

The Ugandan government has been in the news recently over cases of grand corruption. There is a widely publicised campaign by civil society to clean up government. But what many may not know is that sections of civil are themselves not so clean

I find the 2013 Uganda quite humorous, quite enthralling but also bemusing as much as it is amusing. Since 2008, the government has treated me as a ball to be kicked by any policeman; it has taken me to be a drum; it has turned me into a punching bag. The reason has been simple: I speak too much and what I speak is too true to be fathomed. In fact, I have been portrayed as a problem everywhere. My colleagues in the human rights fraternity have ignored me; some of them have gullibly and naively concluded that I am mentally disabled never mind that the so-called experts have also declared me to be a genius.

Why do I begin with these opening remarks? On Monday February 4, I was arrested together with Bishop Zac Niringiye as we distributed the Black Monday Newsletter that chronicled corruption scandals by politicians and civil servants in the "visionary NRM government under the visionary leader" His Excellency Yoweri Museveni.

As we drove in Bishop Niringiye's vehicle towards our next stage, we were blocked by the police patrol vehicle. Soon, I saw very many policemen armed to the teeth cocking their guns and I realized we had been arrested. While it may have come as a shock to the venerable Bishop, I found it quite usual and deep in my heart I was happy that the police had played into our hands.

A few minutes later, SSP Sam Omala ordered Bishop Niringiye to lower the window glasses. We were told to go to Wandegeya police station for a chat with the police and we obliged and we went in the company of two uniformed police officers both of them Cadet Assistant Superintend of Police.

As we reached Wandegeya, we found some students had also been arrested and they were asking why they were being subjected to anguish and torment. As I spoke in defence of the students, Bishop Niringiye rebuked me and told me he was going to chase me. At that point the man of God didn't realize that he had already been arrested and he didn't know that being soft with the police wouldn't help him at all.

Minutes after arriving at the police city lawyer my friend Nicholas Opiyo arrived but he alone can tell the ridicule he was subjected to by SSP Omara and the Wandegeya Police station OC CID. Poor Nicholas and Zac thought they were going to use civil means with the police that has no scintilla of civility never mind that it is by law supposed to be a civilian force.

Our lawyer Nicholas Opiyo was reinforced by another prominent lawyer Deo Nkunzingoma, president of the Uganda Law Society. Because I am very close to Nicholas Opiyo and very close to Deogratias Nkuzingoma, I was tempted to think that they were there primarily because of me. In a short while, both the lawyers and my co-suspects became uncomfortable with me. Why? Because I never beseeched the police, I told them off and when the OC CID attempted to beat me, I told him that I would send him to his creator if he dared to touch me.

Inevitably, I was looked at as a spoiler and separated from the other suspects. I called my own lawyers - Asuman Basalirwa and tried getting in touch with Norbert Mao. Not because I despise Nicholas Opiyo for I know he is one the most brilliant young lawyers in Kampala but because he failed to understand one thing: that political questions are best answered with political solutions.

As a human rights defender and scholar I refuse to accept one thing. I will never negotiate with anybody when I know he or she is wrong. I will never sweet-talk anybody doing wrong. My approach works very well. My brains are superb and they never lie to me. This explains why I am now a free man but Bishop Niringiye is a captive because he still has to report to police on February 14. This explains why I never stepped in police cells but Bishop Niringiye and others did. This explains why I stayed in my shoes, stayed with my phone and all possessions but they rest had them removed.

THE BLACK MONDAY ARCHITECTS ARE NOT ENTIRELY CLEAN

Sadly, our society is entirely rotten. There's stinking corruption in Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) more than in government agencies. And the reason is simple: because all government institutions are kaput, no efforts have ever been made to unearth corruption orchestrated, perpetrated and perpetuated by CSOs. I can state without any contradiction that most noise makers in civil society organizations are stinking rich not because of hard work but because they pilfer donor funds which are meant to benefit the ordinary citizen. And because the so-called activists know me, they don't allow me closer to them. That's why I am the only activist who earns no coin from the donors.

Definitely, there's a lot of money for the Black Monday campaign. The organizers are not ready to account to anybody. I wonder how and why they should address press conferences without our knowledge; they meet the police without me even when I am at the venue; they address joint press conferences with the police without our mandate. Is civil society synonymous with NGOs? No. Are civil society members employees in the NGOs? An empathic no. To NGO Forum, HURINET, Uganda Debt Net Work (UDN), Anticorruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU), DENIVA, Leonard Okello, Bishop Zac Niringiye, and Jackie Asiimwe, among others, corruption cannot be fought using non-transparent means. As you put to task the thieves to account, you also must account for the funds that use in the Black Monday Campaign. At least, I know for sure that you are not using your own money. I also need a vehicle, I need money, I need newsletters and all other paraphernalia to enable me in the campaign. I am the only person who dovetails with the unemployed youths and students in universities and other institutions of learning. I can give several reasons to buttress my argument if you dispute my assertion.

What shocked me is that after the release of Bishop Niringiye from the cells, virtually all the activists were less enthusiastic about the release of the students who incidentally had been recruited by Dr Niringiye into the campaign. I told the police leadership - ACP Tanui, the Regional Police Commander that I would mobilize students from Makerere to torch the police station if the students were not released after Dr Niringiye had been released. They were actually released after they had seen me going to Makerere University to do the mobilization.

I embrace the Black Monday campaign simply because the issues raised are legitimate not that I agree with the architects. I believe that after successfully burying political corruption, it will be easy to put an end to corruption in NGOs and trade unions. I have resolved never to step in police cells again and never to be beaten by the police again until I have ousted Museveni's regime using brain power. To successfully fight mediocrity, corruption and social injustice, you must consult me. I never joined anyone among the Black Monday activists in the fight against Museveni's dysfunctional regime but they have all joined me. They cannot claim to be my leaders in the anti-corruption crusade.

Mr Nuwagaba is a human rights defender.

Ads by Google

Copyright © 2013 Fahamu. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.