Arbitrary arrests and kidnappings in the country have entered a boundary-shattering episode; not even men-in-uniform are spared.
A steady stream of ordinary people have been disappearing in this country for months now without a trace but surprisingly men-in-uniform are vanishing too leaving behind a fearful and anguished community of relatives and friends.
2nd Lt. Phillip Ankunda, an army pilot, attached to the Special Forces Command, disappeared on May 2, 2020, according to his sister Marriam Mwiza. She learnt about her brother’s arrest eight days later when soldiers came knocking at their gate in Bweyogerere, Kira division, in Wakiso district.
“I came to know of his whereabouts on May 10, 2020 when security operatives brought him home for a house search. They told me he wasn’t a criminal but he associated with wrong people,” she said in an interview with The Observer on February 3.
After the house search, which found only his national identity card, she said Ankunda was taken back to Mbuya barracks where he was illegally detained without any access to relatives until June 3, 2020.
Mwiza said when she finally got to meet her brother and spoke to him, he said he had been interrogated extraneously about his relationship with friends; Samuel Ndwaine, Jack Batamuliza and Diana Katabwa. She said Ankunda was also told by his interrogators to admit that he is Rwandese.
When he refused, Mwiza said Ankunda was tortured. He was cuffed and hung on a metal bar for 24 hours until he passed out.
“They told him that if he refused to accept that he was Rwandese, he would rot in jail,” she said.
“I waited for him to be prosecuted in court but all in vain till I applied for a habeas corpus and we served them on July 3. Court ordered them to bring him in court on July 9 but they instead charged him on July 8 in UDC court (UPDF Unit Disciplinary Committee CMI headquarters) and was remanded till to-date,” she said.
“They kept changing charge sheets. They don’t allow us to visit him. He was only brought to court once in September till now,” she said.
In an affidavit sworn on June 25 to support her motion for a writ of habeas corpus from the High Court, Mwiza said, “That sometime on 2nd May 2020 my brother (the applicant) Ankunda Phillip was arrested by security agents he later identified to be CMI officials from Nakasongola where he had been deployed in a military unit and he was flown by a jet to unknown place of detention in Kampala.”
“I only became aware of the arrest of the applicant on 10th May 2020 when the said security agents came with him in Bweyogerere where I also reside to carry out a search…”
The applicant, according to the affidavit, was not aware of any charge against him save “for being told that he was suspected of espionage.” “That after several follow-ups with various security personnel, I was later informed that I could access my brother (the applicant) through a one Maj. Tumwine in Mbuya, CMI headquarters.”
On June 21 2020 after much persistence, Mwiza was allowed limited access to his brother at Lower Mbuya, CMI headquarters.
“He narrated to me…that he was badly tortured, he was not in good shape and he had wounds on his hands.”
“That he was never charged with any offence and the only accusations were that he was on the list of Rwandese spies of which he was not aware and they kept shifting him to different unknown jails…” she affirmed.
She said since June 21 she and her relatives have never been allowed to see their brother.
“All attempts to the see the Applicant have been in vain and we do not know his current whereabouts and his health condition, which has thrown the entire family in deep psychological torture and severe stress.”
In response, Maj. DA Atwine in his sworn affidavit claimed that Ankunda was first confined at his residence at Uganda Air Force College, Nakasongola, and only flown from there on 6th July to Lower Mbuya for purposes of trial. He said Ankunda was arrested on May 2 and “was informed about the reasons of his arrest.
He insisted Ankunda’s relatives were never denied access to him and continue to visit him.
“He has never been tortured and he is in good health,” he said.
Ankunda was produced before the UPDF Unit Disciplinary Committee CMI headquarters on July 8 2020. According to the first charge sheet, A1: RO/15287 2LT Phillip Neville Ankunda, 31, UPDF officer, a pilot attached to SFC, is charged with “conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline c/s 178 (1), (2), (5) (a) of the UPDF Act N0.7 of 2005. According to the particulars of the case, “A1:RO/15287 2nd Lt. Phillip Neville Ankunda, A2: RA/240735 Pte Ndwaine Nathan Samuel aka Ndwane Shingiro and A3 RA/238865 Nakobole Moses, persons subject to military laws, between the month of February 2020 to May 2020 at different places in Kampala District shared sensitive information with agents of a foreign power and failed to report the same to the relevant military authorities.”
The second charge sheet claims that, Ankunda with six others; 2LT Kasamula Alex, PTE Ndawine Nathan Samuel, PTE Asiimwe Makobore Moses, PTE Mugabi Godfrey, ASP Akandanaho Benon and ASP Sabiiti Frank and others still at large between February and May 2020 while at various places in Kampala District shared sensitive information with agents of Rwandese authorities with intent to prejudice the security of the defence forces.