Saturday, 17 February 2018

From Amin to Aminism: Assault on Journalists and Civil Society institutions in Museveni’s Uganda

Civil society activists to camp at police over office break-in

Kampala, Uganda | GODFREY SSALI | The Human Rights Awareness and Promotion forum (HRAPF), A Civil Society Organization that provides legal support and representation to marginalized people has threatened to shift its operations to the Old Kampala Police station citing security concerns.
The executive director Adrian Jjuuko said that effective Monday February 22, 2018 the organization would camp at the police station whose jurisdiction includes Plot 390, Professor Apolo Nsibambi Road, where their offices are located until police assures them of security.
This follows an incident Thursday night where unknown thugs broke into their offices in Namirembe, Kampala.
The thugs assaulted and incapacitated two security guards with iron bars and batons leaving them in critical condition and soaked in a pool of blood.
According to the organization’s deputy executive director, Anthony Mutimba, the thugs accessed the office using the perimeter and disabled the power and security systems.
“Though nothing was stolen the two security guards were critically injured and are currently hospitalized at St. Francis Nsambya Hospital,” said Mutimba
Addressing a press conference Friday afternoon, the forum’s executive director Adrian Jjuuko said this is the second break-in less than two years with the first one in 2016 claiming the life of a security guard.
“This is the second such attack that HRAPF has suffered. The first attack took place on the 22nd of May 2016 wherein a security guard, Mr. Emmanuel Arituha, was brutally murdered,” said Jjuuko.
Then the assailants ransacked the offices of the director and the deputy director, and stole documents and a television screen. The assailants did not take computers, laptops and other electronic gadgets.
Jjuuko said that though the particular incident was thoroughly investigated by the Uganda Police Force, who came to the conclusion that it was a random act of vandalism and burglary, no arrests were made despite the information that was provided including CCTV footage of the assailants’ faces.
“These attacks come against the backdrop of a narrowing civic space and increasing incidents of break-ins at civil society organizations that have not been satisfactorily investigated or resolved,” said Jjuuko.
For her part, the executive director of Legal Aid Service Providers Network (LASPNET), Sylvia Namubiru Mukasa on behalf of other human rights defenders said the break-ins appear to form part of a longer term, systemic, and worsening pattern of attacks on Ugandan civil society organizations targeting their legitimate and valuable work.
“The trend of break-ins is worrying given the deteriorating security in the country. Because no single incident has been conclusively investigated and no single person has been apprehended like they parade others,” said Namubiru.
On June 13, 2016, 31 local and international organizations petitioned Gen Kale Kayihura, the Inspector General of Police, about the way the police had handled the wave of break-ins at different offices of civil society organizations across the country.
Organizations such as the Uganda Land Alliance, the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, the Legal Aid Service Providers Network, Akina Mama Wa Africa and Anti-Corruption to mention but a few have suffered break-ins in similar fashion.
Namubiru noted that despite timely reports to the police on all occasions, investigations have been unsatisfactory and the follow up is insufficient.

I was blindfolded for 4 months, says journalist Bakka  

Written by URN
Reverend Captain Isaac Bakka, a veteran journalist, ex-soldier and clergyman was blindfolded from his first day of abduction in October last year until Wednesday last week when he was taken to Kireka police station.
According to Bakka, 68, who is currently being held in Luzira Upper Prison, he was received by three police officers at Kireka police who informed him that they had received him from Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI).
Rev Capt Isaac Bakka
He recounts that from Kireka, he was immediately driven to Nakawa Chief Magistrate's court where he was charged with treason and misprision of treason late in the afternoon.

"At the court, the chief magistrate whom I don't know told me that I was now in the right place and asked me to inform my people because there had been reports that I was missing." Bakka told URN journalists who paid him a visit at Luzira Upper Prison on Monday.

He further revealed that the chief magistrate asked him not to comment on the charges brought against him because they can only be tried by a higher court. Bakka says that he is to be returned to the Nakawa Chief Magistrate's court next week on February 28.

URN has since learnt that Bakka appeared before chief magistrate Jameson Karemani. Last week, the spokesperson of Uganda Prisons Service Frank Baine confirmed that they had received Bakka on February 14 and were holding him on charges of treason and misprision of treason.

Misprision of treason is an offence, committed where someone conceals knowledge of the mission of any treason against the state. It attracts a life sentence upon conviction.

Bakka's presence at Luzira was disclosed a day after Obongi County MP Hassan Kaps Fungaroo together with other MPs tasked government to explain the whereabouts of the journalist who was reported missing in October last year.

Bakka's abduction    
The veteran journalist attached to Bornfree Technologies Network (BTN Television), a television broadcaster based in Arua, West Nile, narrated to our reporters that he was abducted from Seeta, Mukono alongside Jinja road as he walked back to his home.

Bakka went missing about four months ago and his whereabouts remained unknown for some time. Bakka's wife, Sylvia reported that she last saw her husband of 20 years on October 8, 2017.

"A Noah car stopped and three armed plain clothed men jumped out, grabbed, threw me inside and immediately blindfolded me and drove off to a destination I don't know. I had never seen day light again until at Kireka police last week." he recounted.

In a house whose location he does not know, Bakka slept on the floor since his abduction and was served porridge with no sugar as well as posho and beans with no salt. This, he says was his daily morning and lunch time meals and would feed with his blindfold on.

Bakka told our journalists that in the house, he was guarded by an armed person who could not allow him touch the blindfold.

"I could ease myself in a bucket that was provided in the room and to find it, I could always crawl in search for it," he painfully narrated.

Asked whether he was physically tortured, Bakka denied any form of torture while in the safe house and any form interrogation. He, however, revealed that he was directed by the armed men to accept that he had committed treason.

"Besides the directives to accept the treason charges, I got malaria while in the safe house and I was only given Panadol with the men telling me swallow it or leave it and die." he recounted.

Bakka said he was now happy being at Luzira Upper Prison describing his situation as 'safe'. He said that it's at the prison that he has tasted sugar and salt since his abduction last year.

Bakka said he is strong and not scared since he has always supported peace and tranquility. He dismissed the treason charges saying he was not aware of any treason offence committed by him. Bakka also said that he does not know the other people with whom he is being charged with.

Judiciary spokesperson Solomon Muyita recently confirmed media reports that the veteran journalist was arrested for allegedly being involved in the procurement of arms to overthrow the government.

"On the charge sheet, they were four people charged with treason and misprision of treason. They say they were procuring arms and other materials they intended to use to over throw the government and they conducted the acts in Kampala, Jinja and outside Uganda between January 2017 and January 2018," Muyita told NTV.

He further noted that Bakka and the others had been remanded by chief magistrate Jameson Karemani for two weeks when the case will come back for mention.

Gov't denies knowledge of journalist Etukuri's whereabouts  

Internal Affairs state minister Mario Obiga Kania has said government does not also know the whereabouts of New Vision crime investigations journalist Charles Etukuri.
Etukuri was allegedly kidnapped outside Vision Group premises on Tuesday afternoon by men dressed in military fatigue. They were reportedly driving a double cabin vehicle Reg No. UAH 038A.
Obiga told parliament chaired by deputy speaker Jacob Oulanyah that while investigations into the alleged kidnap are ongoing, so far the police does not know where the journalist is.
“We tasked the police to furnish us with information of where he [Etukuri] is and by Tuesday police [also did not know]. Up to today [Thursday], we are still investigating and if he is held by any government department, we shall produce him before court for whatever wrong he has done and that is the process we have to take,” Obiga said.
Obiga said despite commencement of the investigations by the concerned security agencies, no findings have been filed concerning Etukuri’s whereabouts. The minister was responding to a matter of national importance raised by Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo.
The MP also demanded government to explain to the country the fate of the two dead Europeans; Finnish entrepreneur Terasvouri Tuomas Juha Petteri, 42, and Alex Nordlarndar Sebastien Andreas, 41, from Sweden.
Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesman Luke Owoyesigyire had said on February 5, that Sebastien was found dead in his room at Sheraton Kampala hotel, while Petteri was found dead on February 6, at the Pearl of Africa hotel.
According to New Vision management, Etukuri's kidnap is likely connected to the stories he covered on Saturday and Sunday about the alleged murders. The murders were linked to officials in Internal Security Organisation (ISO) and Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI).
The leadership of the two organisations and that of police, that Etukuri is said to have been very close to, have not hidden from the public their disdain for each other's operation methods and alleged linkage to criminals and gangs. After the alleged kidnap, Etukuri reportedly reached out to his bosses at New Vision and told them that he was "safe".

“Can we know from government the fate of people who were killed in our facilities in hotels at the hands of security forces and what happened to the journalist who wrote about their death, they should tell us where Etukuri is and if he has broken the law, let him be produced in court,” Ssekikubo said.
Minister Obiga said the investigative bodies have commenced investigations and working towards returning the bodies of the deceased persons to their countries.
“In such incidents where people of high profile (investors) die, government doesn't just rush to make statements before investigations are done because the public statement may derail the investigations,” Obiga said.
“I will ask for patience, when we reach a certain level of investigations, we shall come back and make a statement in the house over the matter,” he added.
Defence and Veteran Affairs minister Adolf Mwesige said that claims that those that abducted Etukuri were in military uniform are false. “A mere semblance of military attire should not be concluded for the army uniform...I need to cross check because as you know, even wrong people can wear these uniforms,” Mwesige said.
Obongi MP Kaps Hassan Fungaroo also tasked government on the whereabouts of a veteran journalist and retired army officer Rev Isaac Bakka. Bakka went missing in October last year and has not been seen or heard from since then.
Masaka Woman MP Mary Babirye Kabanda said it was government’s responsibility to ensure safety and protection of journalists else government would face strong criticism from the international community.

Journalist Bakka secretly charged, remanded to Luzira

February 16, 2018
Written by URN

A day after members of parliament demanded for the whereabouts of veteran journalist, Rev Isaac Bakka, who went missing four months ago, government has said that he is incarcerated in Luzira prison on charges of treason and misprision of treason. 

Misprision of treason is an offence, committed where someone conceals knowledge of the mission of any treason against the state. It attracts a life sentence upon conviction. 
Uganda Prisons Service spokesperson Frank Baine says Baaka was brought to Luzira Upper prison on February 14. 

"He is admitted as Rev. Captain at Upper prison in Luzira, but they just brought him recently," Baine said. 

Bakka, who is attached to Bornfree Technologies Network (BTN), a television broadcaster based in Arua, West Nile went missing on October 9, 2017 after being kidnapped by unknown people in Mukono.

His whereabouts remained unknown until yesterday when MPs raised a matter of national importance on the floor of the House. They tasked government to explain the whereabouts of Bakka and New Vision journalist Charles Etukuri. Bakka was reportedly secretly charged and remanded to Luzira prison. 

Etukuri was, also this week kidnapped by men dressed army uniforms and his whereabouts remains unknown. 
Etukuri was reportedly kidnapped on Tuesday afternoon outside the New Vision premises. New Vision supposes that Etukuri, who was very close to police boss Gen Kale Kayihura, could have been abducted in connection to a series of investigative stories that he recently worked on.

His last story was about the death of an investor, a Finnish national who died at Pearl of Africa hotel in Kampala under unclear circumstances. The story implicated some operatives attached to the Internal Security Organisation (ISO) in the death of the Finnish tycoon Tuomas Teräsvuori Juha.

Etukuri's story stated that Teräsvuori had travelled to Uganda with Finnish politician Suvi Linden to meet the head of ISO Col Fred Bagyenda. The story further stated that although security agencies claimed that deceased died after inhaling drugs, Linden had told Saturday Vision that the deceased was not taking drugs.
In the same article, it was reported that Teräsvuori died a day after he was arrested in an operation by ISO officers led by Joel Agaba in Entebbe on Monday, February 5.

He was arrested on accusations that he had travelled into the country on a forged clearance letter by Bagyenda and later set free. He died a day later.