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Free Our People- Opposition MPs ask Museveni during State of the Nation Address

Opposition MPs hold placards demanding release of political detainees during President Museveni’s state of the nation address at Kololo Independence Grounds in Kampala on June 4, 2021

Seated opposition Members of Parliament held aloft handwritten placards inscribed with phrases, ‘’Free our people. Free political prisoners.’’ during the televised event at Kololo Independence Grounds.

Appearing unruffled, president Museveni carried on with his address, which comes at a time when several opposition supporters are on trial in the military court amid accusations of crimes allegedly committed during the 2021 general election.

It should be remembered that just of recent the Mufti of Uganda sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubajje also called for unity among Ugandans and urged the president and the government to release all political prisoners.

“Let them be released, let them enjoy their freedom with families. Some of them are Muslims and would love to celebrate Eid with their families,” Sheikh Mubajje said during Eid prayers at Uganda National Mosque, Old Kampala before reechoing president Museveni’s message that elections are over.

He also asked security to pardon boda boda cyclists who had been arrested or whose motorcycles had been impounded for allegedly violating curfew hours.

Members of Parliament on the Human Rights Committee, have called for the unconditional release of the political prisoners at Kitalya Maximum Prison.

The legislators led by the Committee Vice Chairperson Agnes Taaka visited Kitalya Prison on Friday and were received by David Nsalasata, on behalf of the Commissioner General.

According to Taaka, they were able to speak Nubian Buken Ali, a close ally of the National Unity Platform president Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, who spoke on behalf of the political prisoners.

“We spoke to him and he told us the conditions they are going through, he told us how they have been denied a tight to bail,” Taaka said.

Taaka said that they inspected the sick bay, where they found three NUP supporters who claimed that they have not yet healed from the pain inflicted upon them during their arrest in Kalangala last year.

MP Kawempe North, Latif Ssebagala said some of the prisoners they met need to get private medical attention immediately so that in case something bad happens to them, Kitalya Prisons is not to blame.

Ssebagala also said that they inspected the dining area, and they found out that the food they feed the prisoners on is of poor quality and often half cooked before they serve it to them, which could be making the prisoners sick.

“We met some who are really not in a good health condition, they told us that most of their colleagues are coughing which means that congestion is a lot. The treatment here can not be enough, they should be allowed to get private treatment,” Ssebagala saiaid.

Nsalasata, who is the Dır. Production and Engineering at the Uganda Prisons, who spoke on behalf on the Prisons boss said that they are trying their best to feed the prisoners on the budget they have. He added that they will work on the recommendations of the committee. He, however, denied claims that most of the detainees were sick and in pain, saying that for most of them, it is just Malaria.

“We can surely do better and we have taken note of the observations you’ve made and may be we need to change a few things,” Nsalasata said.

Taaka now wants government to release all political prisoners unconditionally so that they can get access to better health care.

“Most of these people were arrested because of politics, politics is now done. We are going to go back and make a report very quickly, so that some of these people can be released. Some of them were even arrested for petty petty reasons,” Taaka said.

Kitalya Prisons came under scrutiny after most of the opposition supporters who were arrested in recent elections were detained there. Since then, there have been claims that many of them have been tortured while in detention and fed on half cooked food.

Former Speaker of parliament Kadaga before they sworn in for the 11th parliament she also instructed the Human Rights Committee to investigate the claims following the release of Kawempe North MP-elect Mohammed Ssegirinya from Kitalya. Ssegirinya was immediately checked into hospital after his release.

The army court at Makindye chaired by Lt Gen Andrew Gutti has repeatedly denied bail to several opposition supporters arrested in December last year on grounds that they would incite violence.

Prosecution states that the detainees were held for unlawful possession of ammunition contrary to the Firearms Act. The suspects, who include Bobi Wine’s singing partner Ali Bukeni alias Nubian Li and his personal body guard, Edward Sebufu alias Eddy Mutwe denied the charges.

Uganda’s recently concluded electoral season claimed over 50 lives and saw an innumerable number of Ugandans arbitrarily detained.

President Museveni whose election victory ran on a ‘‘Securing your future’’ sloganeering urged Ugandans to gear efforts towards achieving social-economic transformation.

“The target is to ensure prosperity of our people by helping them to create wealth and jobs for themselves as well as ensuring security of our country,” he said during the state of nation address.

“We are struggling in a global environment. Let all leaders stop confusing people by spreading divergent messages. Let all people embrace profitability assessment (ekibaaro), and our products must be safe for global consumption” he added.

Mr Museveni also said: ‘‘I urge our people to join commercial agriculture, industries, services and ICT,’’ noting that government will fund the Uganda Development Bank (UDB) in order to avail loans to citizens at less than 12%.”

The president voiced a fundamental warning to the corrupt- further revealing a major shift towards using ‘young people, preferably from the middle class to liberate several sectors’.

‘‘Corruption starts in the ministry of finance where projects are designed but they add in things which aren’t supposed to be there. I have the story now. You’ll see…You watch out. It is easy for NRM to defeat corruption,’’

Critics have previously expressed disagreement with the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM’s) approach to stamping out systemic corruption.

‘‘These are children from rich families who don’t have the problem of poverty related-pressure from home. This is a structural change. You’ll see how they will help us to fight this corruption,’’ Mr Museveni echoed.

Mr Museveni castigated authorities in Police while attributing criminality to corruption and poor procedures of handling crime within the law enforcement agency.

‘‘The recent shooting of Gen Edward Katumba Wamala by shallow actors who I called “pigs” showed the poor organization of Police. The UAVs and cameras I put in place did their work but why didn’t the camera control center alert all patrol cars? These officers think they are just for forensic analysis,’’ he said.

Mr Museveni slammed Police officers for abandoning use of the traditional radio calls for communication.

‘‘The police is therefore directed to stop using mobile phones and go back to using radio-calls that are open to all stations so that they can act promptly in emergencies,’’ he said.
Mr Museveni hinted on the need to end the constitutionally provided for bail for suspects before they are convicted in courts of law.

‘’Those arrested over previous killings have been released on bail by courts of law. Why does someone who has been arrested for killing people be released on bail,’’ Mr Museveni roared before he said security has been expanded with more military brigades.

Last month, 17 of the 35 National Unity Platform-NUP party supporters remanded by the Uganda People’s Defense Forces-General Court Martial were released on bail.

Jolliebest Kasajja
Jolliebest Kasajja
Jolliebest Kasajja is a Ugandan Photo Journalist, Influencer, Photo and Videographer, News Editor and a critic in African Politics
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