When we were dragged out of parliament on September 27 for protesting against a move to entrench Museveni’s life presidency, we were bundled into a waiting van along the road between National theatre and Parliament building.
I promised to return to this story in this column, having recounted the torture we went through inside parliament last week.
Probably because there are more people to arrest these days, police has turned some of the patrol pickup trucks into some sort of cages. The cages are built in such a way that when you are thrown inside, you don’t recognize where they are taking you.
These cages carried many of my other colleagues on that unfortunate day. For me, I was bundled into the van commanded by Albert Muhumuza. Because he has participated in numerous arrests of Dr Kizza Besigye, I immediately recognized him.
Because I think he needed more passengers, he also participated in dragging other MPs into the van. The real henchmen doing the dragging were soldiers from the Special Forces Command (SFC) that protects our brotherly revolutionary, Yoweri Museveni.
Muhumuza, I don’t know what rank he has in police, behaves like the Norwegian weather. During this fracas, he is the one who instructed Ntungamo Municipality MP Gerald Karuhanga, who was gasping for air, to breathe in and out to regain normal breathing.
Then the next minute, the same man was ordering the policemen holding guns inside the van to close all windows.
The man had moved from helping Karuhanga to gather some breath to closing windows so we could not breathe!
Inside this van, nicknamed Mpawo atalikaaba, were seven of us: Karuhanga, Denis Lee Oguzu (Maracha), Samuel Odonga Otto (Aruu), Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central), Robert Kyagulanyi (Kyadondo East), Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West) and yours truly.
Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo was removed by Kampala Metropolitan Police Commander Mwesigwa because of what he called congestion. Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake was also removed because he had slipped into coma, having been beaten badly.
This van, it appears, has its rules. There is no right to talk and Muhumuza aggressively implemented this. He warned us not to turn the mobile police cells into a parliament where we engage in talking.
He ordered the gun-wielding policemen to sit among us to ensure we didn’t talk. He didn’t take our phones but the order was not to use them. He didn’t want the outside world to know what we were going through and where we were headed.
Of course we defied the no-talking order when they brought in a nearly-dying Zaake. We shouted until he was removed. Muhumuza was trying to fold his (Zaake’s) legs to drive away but we couldn’t allow that.
After packing us, off we went. Our first destination was Kira police division near Namugongo in my constituency.
With all of us sweating, Otto told Muhumuza, who seemed happy to see us pleading, that by closing the widows, he had actually provided us with a free sauna. We really sweated!
The driver switched on the air conditioning, but Muhumuza immediately switched it off. Good thing is that they were also sweating. Occasionally, the driver would lower his window, allowing the wind to blow to our side. I had never celebrated the air that we breathe until this moment.
When we complained of the pain in our necks, legs and hands, Muhumuza taunted us: “You don’t exercise but just eat and sit behind air conditioners.”
At one time, he instructed the driver to aggressively hit potholes so we can test “the older vehicles that you [parliament] buy for police.”
Nsereko kept reminding him of how he told him to make more friends, and not enemies. Although Muhumuza sat in the co-driver’s seat, his mind and soul were with us behind.
At Kira, he offloaded Nsereko, Karuhanga and Otto. He then drove the rest of us to Naggalama. Human beings have capacity to deal with tense situations. Being in the company of Bobi Wine and Allan Ssewanyana made me momentarily forget the misery I was going through.
Bobi requested to speak to his wife. Muhumuza laughed him off and told him that since he was fresh in this kind of business, he should “consult Ssewanyana and Ssemujju. You mean for them they don’t have wives?”
From one joke to another, the two guys made the ride to Naggalama even shorter. Bobi Wine reminded us that during the Kyadondo East campaigns, he told his supporters “bikwase Kyagulanyi”, loosely meaning you should entrust your affairs with Kyagulanyi. “Nali simanyi nti biriba bwebiti,” he joked (meaning he didn’t know things would be this bad).
We finally reached Naggalama. Ssewanyana and Bobi were asked to surrender their jackets because they had been torn to pieces, especially Ssewanyana’s.
We were taken to the division police commander’s office and that is where we sat until we were released at 10pm.
And upon release, we again boarded the cage-like truck which drove and dropped each one of us at our residences. We were even photographed as we disembarked.
Kyagulanyi refused to sign in a delivery book that police ordered him to. At this time, Muhumuza had long gone and we were now in the hands of another operative.
Interestingly, when we got arrested again the following day, Muhumuza treated us fairer. They drove us badly but there were no insults on our way to Naggalama.
Like Kibuli CID headquarters, Naggalama doesn’t have a functioning toilet, yet lots of money is wasted in driving us around.
The author is Kira Municipality MP and spokesperson of the Forum for Democratic Change.