The dark times when Ugandans were not sure whether if they left for work in the morning, they would return home safely, are slowly being experienced again.
During the presidential campaigns, security operatives criminalized political competition and divergent opinions. Those suspected of having ties with the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) or its leader, Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi were picked up from their homes, roads, cars and offices, and taken to secret detention centres.
Some of the abductees have returned with torture wounds, and others have never been seen or traced to any police cell or military barracks. It is suspected they died. The abductors move in unidentified vehicles; their faces are masked and armed to the teeth.
In Naama county in Mukono, seven days to polling day (January 14, 2020) 13 young men some of them supporters of Hon. Kyagulanyi were abducted by men who refused to identify themselves. The terror-stricken parents contacted and checked with police posts and stations in the district.
Their search has not yielded anything. The Uganda People Defence Forces (UPDF) and the Police who by law monopolize weapons of violence have all denied complicity in the disappearance of these people. The parents, wives, children of the abductees fear for the worst. Similar cases are reported in Abim, Kaboong, Kampala, Ibanda, Kalangala and Iganga districts.
Recently at Nasser Road, Kampala, a young business person, Umar Kiggimu was dragged from his workplace in broad daylight by unidentified armed men and taken to an unknown place. The armed men came in a tinted, unregistered vehicle. He was not shown an arrest warrant nor did they tell him what offence he committed.
But he was involved in printing campaign posters, especially for NUP candidates. Extrajudicial killings and abductions featured prominently during the dictatorial regimes of Idd Amin Dada and Dr Apollo Milton Obote.
President Museveni has severally claimed that he launched the guerilla campaigns in Luwero in 1981 in order to end extrajudicial killings and disappearances of Ugandans, among other things. He commonly refers to this kind of heinous crime as state-inspired violence against the citizen.
The impunity with which these abductions, torture and illegal detentions are done, reveal that those involved have special approval. It is even fuelled by the widespread shutdown of social media, which can no longer publish such macabre events –giving free rein to gun-wielding security operatives.
While addressing Special District Administrators, police commanders and other heads of security in 1980s, President Museveni said he would not preside over a country where a Ugandan is killed and the authorities do not know who has killed him or her.
Mr President, you are the consumer of all the intelligence in the country and commander in chief of the armed forces, it is high time you reined in your security operatives. All Ugandans have a right to life, divergent opinions and freedom to associate with whomever they feel like.
It is not right to criminalize political competition and legitimate opposition. If it is the case of enforcing the laws of the country, let the enforcement agencies follow the laws.
The arresting officer must be identified, the offence committed must be explained to the arrestee, the detention centres must be those that are recognized by law, and the arrested person must be produced in court within 48 hours. Ugandans deserve better and since Mr President promised a secure future for them, kindly act and end these human rights abuses.