Gruesome stories continue coming out of Uganda's torture chambers as survivors describe the physical and mental mistreatment they were subjected to by members of the armed forces following their arrests.
More than 1,000 people were subsequently arrested and more than 54 shot dead following violent countrywide protests on November 18 and 19, 2020 triggered by the arrest of then-presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi in Luuka district in eastern Uganda. Last month President Yoweri Museveni said the commandos unit had arrested over 200 people and killed some who he called "terrorists" who wanted to block the January 14 presidential elections.
Kareem Muganga, a taxi conductor was arrested on December 21, from Kabembe stage on Kayunga road in Mukono North. Muganga says he was arrested as he persuaded passengers to board his taxi. Immediately, he says, he was handcuffed, blindfolded and thrown into a waiting car that sped off.
Muganga doesn’t know where he was being imprisoned until his release last week. With the beatings having become a daily routine, the most disquieting story from his stay in detention was being forced to eat three kilograms of posho and a kilogram of beans in 20 minutes.
It’s not only him who faced this kind of torture, Muganga claims. Many other people, about 1,000 detainees who were in the same detention facility as he was, would be asked to eat much more food than their stomachs could accommodate. Those who did not finish this food, he says, would be beaten and beatings "measured in kilograms", where 1kg was 100 strokes.
In the process of torture, Muganga says he lost a tooth and his left eye and the ear were also injured. He has since lost his hearing and one has to shout when talking to him.
Muganga also narrates that a colleague, Eric Sempijja who is asthmatic, one day tried to pull off the cloth they use to blindfold him because he was having difficulties in breathing but when the soldiers came, they started beating him mercilessly claiming he wanted to escape. Sempijja, he says had never been seen again after his "transfer".
BOBI WINE SONGS
According to Muganga, the detainees were forced to sing Bobi Wine’s songs in another 'creative' form of torture. One night, he says detainees were asked to sing Bobi Wine’s Tuliyambala Engule (We shall wear the crown) song with the soldiers emphasizing the last verse of “tulivimba mu Uganda empya” loosely translated as “we will have swag in the new Uganda.”
He says soldiers said they were going to show them the 'new Uganda.' For an entire night, according to Muganga, detainees were made to sing, sit, stand, squat repetitively.
Muganga says one night at around 8:30 pm last month on February 12, soldiers came and asked him his name quietly, and before Muganga even finished saying his name, the men carried him up to the toilet, unfolded his eyes, photographed him gave him a white shirt and together with some colleagues were thrown into a car 30 minutes and then driven around until about midnight.
He was later dumped in a sugarcane plantation in a place he does not know. Intriguingly, after being dumped, he was given back his phone, fully charged yet when he was arrested, it hardly had any battery charge left.
He says at the time, he was arrested his phone had no airtime but upon release, he found that his captors had loaded airtime for him on his phone which he used to call relatives.
After release, Muganga, says that he has failed to work as a conductor again because he can hardly hear passengers calling him to collect the money and he also cannot see those standing on the roadside waiting for taxis.