A Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) journalist, Deogratious Peter Otai accusing Rtd Maj Gen Matayo Kyaligonza and his guards of assaulting him, is seeking Shs 340 million in compensation.
Otai sued Kyaligonza and his bodyguards, corporal Peter Bushindiki and private John Robert Okurut. Also jointly sued is the attorney general. In his suit before the Civil Division of High court, Otai through his lawyers of Kiiza and Mugisha Advocates is seeking Shs 200 million for psychological torture, stress, inhumane treatment, humiliation and other human rights violations.
He also wants Shs 80 million as punitive damages and another Shs 60 million for aggravated damages. The incident stems from a February 24, 2019 incident in a Seeta in Mukono district. Otai explains that on the said date, he went to withdraw money from the Centenary bank automatic teller machine (ATM).
In the suit, Otai explains that after making his transaction, he saw someone he suspected to be from Burundi (because of the vehicle number plate) assaulting a traffic police officer identified as Esther Namaganda. According to Otai, being a journalist, he naturally tried to find out what was happening so as to file a story thereafter. He says that he found Kyaligonza's guards; Bushindiki and Okurut manhandling Namaganda by the neck.
Otai reportedly told the trio (Kyaligonza and his two guards) that what was happening couldn’t be tolerated in the country as it amounts to gender violence. He says that it is at this point that the guards dashed to their vehicle and picked up bayonets and attempted to cut him.
Otai took pictures of the incident prompting the military guards to attack him. The application is supported by Otai's affidavit and that of Arnold Mukose, the secretary for Human Rights in Uganda Journalist’s Association.
"Currently I'm living in fear when I go to sleep, I get nightmares of torture from security operatives," reads Otai's affidavit in part.
Adding that; “Even when I hear something hitting the wall, the door creaking, dogs barking and windows shuttering and screeching. I'm forced to sit awake on my bed almost the entire night engulfed by fear."
Otai also alleges that he has received many calls from his relatives advising him to give up his quest for justice because they believe that, "military officers in Uganda are untouchable and not even Uganda's courts can hold them accountable."
Both Bushindiki and Okurut were picked up by the military last month but have never been arraigned in any court. Kyaligonza simply recorded a statement at police Headquarters in Kampala. The director of public prosecutions, Mike Chibita has since returned Kyaligonza’s case file citing lack of crucial information from witnesses.
Court has summoned Kyaligonza, his guards and attorney general to file their defense within two weeks before the matter is fixed for hearing.