10 November 2017

Uganda: Gangster-Like Arrest Left Sour Taste in the Mouth

Photo: The Observer
Ahmed Ssenfuuka being rearrested shortly after being released on bail.

Four suspects in the murder of former police spokesman Andrew Felix Kaweesi were on Wednesday rearrested shortly after they had been granted bail by Nakawa Chief Magistrate's court, having been in detention for six months.

But the news is not in the rearrest; what is trending is the manner in which it was conducted. The brutality and bravado of the arresting team has left a sour taste in the mouth, to say the least.

The stand-out image is that of Ahmad Ssenfuka, one of the four suspects, whose dramatic arrest has been widely covered in the media and is likely to remain a reference point in future.

State agents in plain clothes are captured on camera cornering the suspect in a public place and brutally subduing him as he tried to resist. His shirt and trousers are torn to threads, exposing his nakedness. Meanwhile, a shabbily dressed man is brandishing a pistol.

All this happens as members of the public look on, in shock. Looking at the images, one would be forgiven to think that it is a scene from a movie.

Unfortunately, such is no longer an isolated incident. Rearresting suspects who have been freed by courts has become common. It has equally become common for state agents in plainclothes to carry out arrests or beat up protestors.

While the state has a duty to protect its citizens and may seek to rearrest an individual deemed dangerous or facing other charges, the manner in which this particular arrest was conducted is disconcerting.

Not even being linked to the rebel Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), as the army claims, justifies such cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Besides, security officers on official duty should have no problem appearing in uniform or identifying themselves.

Appearing in plainclothes, using civilian number plate vehicles and acting like gangsters is reminiscent of the dark days that President Museveni often says he liberated this country from.

This modus operandi must be condemned by all right-thinking members of society as a matter of principle because today it's Ssenfuka, tomorrow it's someone else.

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