Uganda: Government Officials Should Not Defend Torturers

Ugandan soldiers beating up Reuters photojournalist James Akena as he covered the protests over the detention of several Opposition MPs in Kampala.
5 September 2018

Security minister Gen Elly Tumwine should be the last person to justify the torture of Ugandans. But sadly, at yesterday's briefing, he did exactly that at the Media Centre in Kampala.

Gen Tumwine said torture by State security agencies before or in the course of arrest is justifiable. His remarks also marked government's failure to condemn both sides to the violence in the recent Arua Municipality parliamentary by-election.

The least Gen Tumwine should have done was to condemn, in principle, the torture of victims over the recent Arua fracas. What is not in doubt is that one Yasin Kawuma was shot dead, Mityana Municipality MP Zaake remains in intensive care, and Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, was left in crutches as a result of torture.

Also one woman visibly bled in court in Gulu and another man collapsed in the same court; all from alleged torture. These hard facts water down our gains made against State-inspired violence. These manifestations of torture should have been enough for Gen Tumwine to disassociate government, and security forces, from the perpetrators.

Moreover, Gen Tumwine is among top brass of bush war victors, who claim to have liberated Uganda and ushered in fundamental change. It is also on record that Gen Tumwine and those in government today promised Ugandans a better country. In sum, the NRM government set the standard against which it should be assessed.

Each time they fall short of that standard and public expectation, it is our duty as citizens to call them out and demand that sanity be restored. On the contrary, Gen Tumwine has been quick to say at least 160 suspects, including Opposition politicians and ordinary citizens, have been arrested and prosecuted over the fracas.

But he has remained ambiguous on prosecuting errant security personnel involved in the Arua and subsequent protests in Mityana. All he says is: "I have no facts about who is suspected." Also his statements that the errant security personnel involved in the Mityana killings "have abandoned guns and have fled, are not reassuring, coming nearly three weeks after the event.

Gen Tumwine's pinning of ordinary Ugandans while looking away on misdeeds of security personnel makes him appear to assert that security personnel have a right to torture, or kill.

It should be now that Gen Tumwine is reminded that such State-inspired violence did inform the preamble to the 1995 Constitution, which emphasises "our struggles against the forces of tyranny, oppression."

Moreover, Article 44 of the same Constitution, enforced by the Prevention and Prohibition of Torture Act, 2012, to enforce Articles 24, and 44(a) of the Constitution, all outlaws torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. We need a quick enquiry into the tortures and killings to bring perpetrators to justice.

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