26 September 2018

Uganda: Parliament to Investigate UPDF Brutality

Photo: The Monitor
Army officers (file photo).

Officers of the Fisheries Protection Force, a section of the UPDF marine brigade, remain under the spotlight for alleged brutality against civilians of the fishing community.

In the latest development, the Deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah instructed the House Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Industry to investigate the matter and immediately report to Parliament.

"We want to find solutions; I am referring this matter to the committee to come up with a concrete report," said Mr Oulanyah.

The Deputy Speaker emphasised that the matter should be handled with expediency since it involves the lives of the people.

The Speaker's directive also followed a protracted debate as MPs poured cold water on a statement by the minister of State for Veteran Affairs, Bright Rwamirama.

MPs from the fishing communities insisted that Parliament pronounces itself on the brutality which has claimed lives and seen the detention and dehumanisation of several people.

Mr Ouma George Abott (NRM, Bukooli Island) told Parliament that a one Capt Joseph Sebukera remains a threat to people's lives including himself (Abott) unless he is redeployed.

"I pray that Capt Sebukera who is commanding the UPDF on the waters be withdrawn because I don't wish for what may happen; the people are suffering and it is unfair when the minister says otherwise," he said adding, "I don't wish to see a situation where we come here to eulogise."

In his statement, Mr Rwamirama disputed all forms of rights violations including brutality and illegal arrests.

Citing the case of a one George Othieno who was allegedly beaten to death, Mr Rwamirama said, "The fisherman jumped into water in an attempt to elude law enforcers who were patrolling the area in the wee hours of the morning.

"At this point, the marine enforcers embarked on the process of rescuing him; despite the fact that they got him from the waters alive and gave him first aid, he collapsed before he could reach a health center," he added.

The minister also said that "the current operations are on Lakes Victoria, Edward, and George as well as on the trade routes and they have so far revived stocks of the Nile perch quantities and reduced foreign exploitation of our water resources."

However, Rwamirama was challenged by Mr Paul Mwiru (Jinja East) who tabled documents as evidence to back up his claim that UPDF is torturing fishermen on the landing sites of Jinja.

Among them were photos showing scars on the said tortured victims, and letters written to UPDF and Police.

The legislator said that the officers (UPDF) have declined to take guidance from any other senior person or leader other than the President and they publicly confess it to civilian authorities.

The MPs accused the Force of extortion and torture among other vices.

But Mr Rwamirama insisted it is not an institution policy of the UPDF for its ranks.

"We have never received complaints, if there are any incidents of extortion, let them be reported to the leadership of the UPDF for redress," he said.

With the MPs expressing anger and mixed recommendations, the Deputy Speaker directed that there should be a clear approach which follows parliamentary procedure.

The Speaker Rebecca Kadaga last week slammed the UPDF for being notorious and taking the law in their hands.

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