Opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) and Democratic Party (DP) supporters in Kyotera are living in fear following the arrest of several campaign agents, strategists and supporters by unidentified operatives.
Those allegedly arrested include among others; Sam Kiwanuka Lukyamuzi, Vincent Musajja, Sulaiti Kyambadde, Ronald Muwonge and Andrew Kawuma. Others have only been identified as Lusembo, Kasiita, Luyobya.
The party officials say their members were arrested from their respective homes by unidentified security personnel on Friday, Saturday, Sunday last week and Monday this week. Charles Kirumira Lwanga, the Kyotera County NUP parliamentary candidate, says their members were picked up by armed operatives in uniform and some dressed in plain-clothes who were travelling in two numberless Toyota Hiace Drone vans who took them away.
Although they suspect that the operation is state engineered, Kirumira and the families of the opposition members, say they tried to trace for their relatives at Kyotera and Kalisizo police stations in vain. Kirumira, also, the NUP coordinator in Greater Masaka Region, says they have lodged a complaint at Kyotera police station and the regional police headquarters in Masaka over their missing members.
"I talked to the regional police commander of Masaka, he’s not aware of any operation in the region. I called the OC in Kyotera, he’s not aware of the operations. They are not telling us the details. I asked the DPC where our people are but he said he has not carried out any arrests as police. We hope our people are safe, our lawyers are working on these issues, they don’t allow us to meet these people," said Lwanga.
He says the incident has left the majority of opposition politicians and supporters worried about what might happen to them during and after elections. Kirumira says the mysterious disappearance and unexplained arrests may disorganize the party’s campaigns but cannot affect the outcomes since they have canvassed votes and are sure of victory.
"It [the arrests] can disorganize but it can’t affect the outcome, am sure they are just going to disorganized us, they are trying to cause fear among us, among our people which I don’t think will stop our win. Our victory is loud and clear, people are saying they want change," Lwanga added.
Henry Ssemakula, one of the lead DP campaigners in Kyotera, says that they are worried because they do not know who will be kidnapped next since police have no clue about who is behind the abductions. He says that they visited the homes of some campaigners where they found several properties destroyed and bloodstains on the floor, which has created more fear.
Ssemakula says that most of the missing people have families to look after and keeping them incommunicado hinders candidates’ support. While closing out their joint rally at Kasambya playground in Kyotera town council, Patrick Kintu Kisekulo, the incumbent Kyotera LC 5 chairperson and John Paul Mpalanyi, the DP candidate for Kyotera County parliamentary seat, condemned the acts of violence against the opposition.
Mpalanyi says abductions of their supporters is unbecoming and threatens democracy in society. Judith Akello, the Kyotera district police commander, says they had not received any information about the abductions until when the concerned politicians reported the matter.
She says police were not part of the operation that led to the arrests, saying they are also investigating the whereabouts of missing persons.