21 September 2017

Uganda: Police Seize Computers, Phones From Staff Before Leaving ActionAid Offices

Photo: Daily Monitor
Police deploy in Kampala ahead of presidential age limit demonstrations.

Kampala — Police on Thursday confiscated laptops and cell phone handsets from a number of ActionAid employees, a day after staging a raid and locking the workers in office.

They, however, withdrew at around 1pm, taking along documents on the non-governmental organisation's financial transactions.

Heavily armed police, waving a search warrant issued by Makindye Chief Magistrate's Court, scoured through offices and documents of the organisation that detectives suspect is involved in unlawful activities.

Police disengaged from ActionAid's Kampala suburb headquarters at about 1pm. Staff immediately converged to explore how to proceed with work in the absence of electronic gadgets that contained official documents.

"We have been inconvenienced, but we shall emerge out stronger," says Arthur Larok, the NGO's Country director, adding: "We remain firm and opposed to the two constitutional amendments (on lifting age limit and empowering the government to forcibly takeover private land for public works."

Police raided the ActionAid offices along that of the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLiSS) on Wednesday, hours before the Igara West MP legislator Raphael Magyezi was expected to ask Parliament's permission to allow him table a Private Members Bill which, among other amendments, seeks to scrap the presidential age limit.

The MP did not seek leave of the House to table the motion as envisaged and Deputy Parliament Speaker Jacob Oulanyah communicated that he and Speaker Rebecca Kadaga required more time to study several notices, including two on motions

Police, however, kept siege at GLiSS offices in Ntinda, a city suburb. They confined the organisation's executive director Godbar Tumushabe at office before taking him for additional search at his home.

Anti-riot police whisked him away when he emerged to speak to journalists about what had happened to him and his organisation over the last 24 hours.

A group from 22 civil society groups made a solidarity appearance at GLiSS offices and in a joint statement condemned the police raid.

The raid, the NGOs say, was "treasonable" but that it would not deter them from speaking out on matters of democracy, good governance and human rights.

"We would like to send a reminder to (President) Museveni and all government actors in support of lifting the presidential age limit that it's [treasonable] to try to overthrow the Constitution as laid down in Article 3 of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda and as such, is punishable by law," their Thursday statement reads in part.

Article 3 of the Constitution empowers Ugandans to resist any and every attempt to subvert the Constitution.

Mr Livingstone Ssewanyana, the executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, another civil society organisation, says in a statement that the police have failed to solve or explain the gruesome killings of women in Wakiso District by unknown assailants and they can expend substantial resources to attack CSOs that are fighting for a "good cause".

Some 23 women have been killed in Katabi Town Council and Nansana Municipaility, both in Wakiso District that belts the capital Kampala, in the past three months.

"The actions of the police are part of the government efforts to frustrate the voice of the people in as far as defending the Constitution is concerned," Mr Ssewanyana says.

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