About me.

Andrew M. Mwenda is the founding Managing Editor of The Independent, Uganda’s premier current affairs newsmagazine. One of Foreign Policy magazine 's top 100 Global Thinkers, TED Speaker and Foreign aid Critic

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Prison Notes - Part 9: Prison testimonies continued

We continue with the interviews I had with inmates in the underground cells at Central Police Station on Sunday, August 14th, 2005. All these were victims of the Violent Crime Crack Unit (VCCU), an almost illegal para military group that acts with impunity in this country.

Victim No. 3
Robert Muhangi (34)

“I am a boda boda rider. One day I was at the stage where I work at Container Village. VCCU people came and put me under arrest. There were six men with guns – two rifles and four pistols – driving in a car with tinted windows. They accused me of taking a female passenger on my bike. True I took a man on my boda boda to Namungona. When we reached there, the man called a woman on phone. The woman came and they entered a fence. After ten minutes, the man came back and we rode back to town. Six months later is when VCCU arrested me asking about a man called Moses that I took to Namungona. I could not easily recall the incident. They took me to VCCU torture chambers in Kireka.

“I spent a whole day seated. At 8pm they brought the man, and I now recalled him. I told them what had happened and they asked me whether he picked a briefcase when he went to the fenced house. I told them I did not see it. They began beating me again with batons on my ankles, knees and elbows. They recorded a statement from me where I denied seeing the briefcase. I spent one month in detention. Later a man called Kasumba in charge of discipline at the cells accused me of being big-headed. He said he would cane me ten times on the buttocks, insisting that I should not touch my buttocks as he whips me. If I do, he would cancel the entire count and go back to zero. He would whip me seven times, and under pressure of pain I would forget and touch my buttocks. He would cancel the count and begin from zero. He ended up caning me 120 times.

“After that I was brought here to CPS where I have been for one month. In all I have been in detention without trial for two months. I do not know any case they have against me. Once they asked me for a gun. I do not know of any car. I have a wife and two children – one in primary one and another in primary four. They are suffering here in Kampala, in Kibuye.

Victim No. 4
Shaban Kazibwe (28) hawker.

“I was at Arua pack on July 4, 2005 when a policeman came and asked me to identify myself and I complied. He accused me of stealing a mobile handset from a woman. We went to the woman’s place, and she accused me of stealing her phone. The woman called her husband Mamelto Mugerwa, Kiira Rd Town Council LC 111 chairman. The man took me to Kiira Rd where he personally beat me and kicked me on the head and slapped me. He was joined one Kawere and the two continued to beat me, accusing me of stealing their phone. I spent one month and one week in jail and I have not been charged in any court of law. I have a wife and three children who have no one to look after them. My wife learnt only yesterday (August 15th) that I was here in detention.

“When she came to see me yesterday, she told me that robbers entered our house and stole everything. I cannot be taken to court because I am under detention by VCCU. I am told my files are in Kireka. Mugerwa asked me for Shs 500,000 if I want to be released.”

Victim No. 5
Daudi Jingo (53) Tailor, Nansana

“I was arrested on May 31, 2005 at 10am. I was sleeping when I heard a knock on the door. A friend told me he had a problem. When I opened, I was put at gunpoint. There was a soldier from CVVU called Ibra Jingo, and an informer called Ntare. They asked me for motorbikes I sold in Jinja and said they wanted to know whom I sold them to. I told them I sold two bikes in Jinja – one in the name Fred Mulwana, the other in the name of Zareno Mukasa. I sold one on December 18th 2004, the second in February 2005. The card for the first bike had been stolen from me and I had reported to the police. The VCCU guy accused me of having stolen the bikes and took me to Kireka.

“I told them I could take them to Jinja – Bugiri – where I sold the bikes. The first bike belonged to a friend who was ill and wanted me to sell it for him. The second belonged to a friend who wanted me to sell it for him so that he can buy a car. We went to Jinja and failed to find the guys who bought the bikes so I was returned to Kireka. That day they beat me thoroughly using batons and hit all my joints, legs, arms and feet. Two weeks later, we went back to Jinja and they put me in Nyalusenya VCCU detention facility for two weeks. I was returned to Kireka and after one week I was brought here to CPS. I have never been taken to court. I have been here at CPS for three weeks. I have a wife and four chidren – two in senior two and one in senior one. The last born is in primary three. They know I am here. They have no one to look after them.
“I have never recorded a statement.”

Victim No. 6

Ronald Seguya (39), farmer in Kakitoma, Nakasongola

“I was arrested on May 22nd, 2005 and brought to CPS on 26th. After one week, I was taken to the VCCU detention facility in Kireka where I was tortured for four days. They were asking me for a gun and a gunman. The background is that I was arrested by police in Nakasongola who were accusing me of possessing a gun. However, someone with a gun came and stayed at my house for a night. Some people had seen the gunman at my home. So police came and asked me where he was. I told them where he went. The problem was that I had not reported the gunman to the police. I spent one and a half months in Kireka. When I complained of torture, they brought me here to CPS where I have been since. I have never written another statement since the one I made in Nakasongola. I have not been taken to court. I have a wife and four children who are in school. They do not know where I am. Possibly they think I am dead.”

By the time I am through with Seguya, time has really run out. I have more guests to me, I need time to rest. But there is one interesting bit in the cells – the testimonies of people who had been arrested and detained in CPS who wrote their experiences on the cell walls. One was by one Anthony Raja Colombo from Sri Lanka. He wrote on the cell walls: “I spent three years in Machison Bay prison in Luzira. Then I was transferred to Jinja Rd Police for five months because of deportation. I was again transferred to Wandegeya Police for another five months. After than I was brought to CPS cells in Kampala on February 26th, 2003. Today is October 23, 2003 and I am still in jail.” What an experience!

Sunday night, I again went to bed late, having distributed my time between interviewing inmates, receiving visitors, and trying to find time to think through this experience. I was certain that the Yoweri Museveni regime would seek to send me to Luzira. Although I would have wanted to regain my freedom, I refused to entertain the thought because I was acutely aware that I should not try to create false expectations. As I went to bed that Sunday night, I prepared my mind for a the long haul a couple of months in Luzira.

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