Uganda: Masafu Prisons Officials On the Spot Over Inmate's Death

Residents of Tiira Village, Sikuda Sub-county in Busia District have accused prison warders at Masafu Government Prison of allegedly torturing an inmate to death.

Stephen Ochieng, 49, a gold miner, turned carpenter at Tiira Trading Centre, died in detention on Saturday after he was reportedly tortured by prison warders. He was buried on Tuesday.

Ochieng had been convicted of assault on May 22 and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment by the magistrate's court in Busia, following his arrest, two days earlier.

Mr Frank Baine, the Uganda Prisons Service public relations officer, said: "It's true a convict died at Masafu Government Prison. The body was taken to Mbale for post-mortem. We are waiting for the report so that we decide on the next course of action."

However, Mr Caleb Onjili, a brother to the deceased, told Daily Monitor at Busia Police Station that before his brother died, he had allegedly told him that he was severely tortured by warders.

"My brother was indeed in pain when I visited him. He pleaded with me that his life was in danger," Mr Onjili said, adding that his brother was walking with difficulty.

Mr Onjili explained that the deceased was tortured by the prison warders as they interrogated him about the whereabouts of the inmate who had earlier escaped from warders at Masafu hospital, where they had been taken for treatment.

Mr Godfrey Mayende, also brother to the deceased , alleged that his brother was first tortured in the garden by prison warders before being dumped in the prison cells, where more torture was meted out on him.

But a prison officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, and other credible sources that had accessed the post-mortem report produced by Dr Rubanza Benson, the government surgeon in Mbale, said Ochieng was tortured using blunt and sharp objects and that his body had several torture marks.

"What we are now following is to establish the people who were involved and we shall have them arrested," the source said.

Appeal to government

"This is not the first time inmates are overworked, tortured while working in the private gardens. We have witnessed it but this should stop," Mr Godfrey Ntalo, a resident in Busia, said.

Mr Ntalo termed the action of the prison warders as mob action and appealed to government intervene to ensure safety of inmates.

"The warders who are supposed to be custodians of the law are the ones instead taking the laws into their own hands," he said.

The deceased is survived by a wife and six children.

Other incidents

In March, two suspects in Kampala reportedly suffocated to death while in custody. Detectives, however, acknowledged that only one individual out of those they had arrested during the March 7 crackdown died at Mulago National Referral Hospital after collapsing at Clock Tower Police Post. The deceased was identified as a one Bogere Omong, a casual worker at Old Taxi Park. In the same month, Sam Bamugemye, 19, an inmate at Kirinya Prison also died while him and his colleagues were coming from Kamuli where they had been deployed to cut trees and clear anthills. In April, 2018 an inmate at Kyabisenge Government Prison in Kakumiro Town council died in his prison cell under unclear circumstances. The deceased was identified as Francis Alinaitwe.

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