My imminent conviction today

Vincent Nuwagaba

Faculty of Law Makerere

University, P.O Box 7062,


29th January 2010

Your Lordship, Hon Justice, Benjamin Odoki

The Chief Justice, Courts of Judicature


My Lord, I write this report to express my disenchantment with the manner in which justice is dispensed in the Ugandan courts of Law. I hope you will be able to appreciate the mood in which I am given the tone of the language in this letter.

The purpose of the report

I have been prompted to write to you after learning that there is a calculated scheme to convict me on trumped up charges of Assault and Threatening Violence – charges whose genesis is my open criticism of unprecedented, sudden, phenomenal and heartless increment of fees in public universities in a week the freshers were report for their courses. My Lord, I know for a fact that university graduates in Uganda are a drop in the ocean – actually not more than 0.5% of the total population. I am part of that drop in the ocean and I am sure I am above average. Did I commit a crime when I wrote to the President complaining about fees increment? I delivered a petition to parliament on the same subject matter. Should that be the reason why I should be convicted?

The truth of the matter is that on 17th August 2009, I was arrested by five police officers with two guns who even deprived me of the money worth Shs 1,400,000 (one million, four hundred thousand shillings) which money I wanted to pay soon after picking my admission letter. Why I was denied my admission letter the university authorities should give an answer but I was told it was an order from above following my letter to the president complaining about heartless tuition increment which would spare none directly or indirectly. I was beaten and I regretted the day I was born. At least, the Head of Political Science Department Dr Yassin Olum can tell the manner in which he found me.

I am directly affected by the unfair and heartless increment of tuition fee up to 126 percent. Does any logical person think, I would keep quiet? To me that is akin to enjoying the rape. Even when a woman feels he cannot stop being raped, she has to complain about it.

I have never been a mediocre and that’s why despite the fact that there are people who fail to make it on government sponsorship from schools such as Buddo and Ntare; I went straight to Makerere University on government sponsorship from Bubangizi Secondary School in Ruhinda. I have also taught in a university and not every university graduate has the wherewithal to teach in a university. Accordingly, I am a better refined brain than majority of our politicians who have run this country down the drain.

How I learnt of the dirty scheme to convict me

I received a call from a police detective almost two months ago. The detective told me, if I don’t talk to the Magistrate, I will be convicted. He told me he had read through my file and found out that there were enough grounds to convict me. I wondered how, a police detective would have access to my file when the hearing had started. I wrote about it in my “The Mouthpiece” column in under the title “Show me justice in Uganda courts”.

Now, what has prompted me to write is what I was told by a certain Lawyer who said he talked to the trial magistrate in my case and the magistrate said he will convict me. I know, if I am convicted it would be politically motivated. I am sure, if the justice system in Uganda was fair, the state witnesses in my case would be charged of perjury. Sadly, impunity is the order of the day.

I would also wish to let you know that it is illegal to convict anybody of a criminal offence if such person didn’t have an attorney to represent them. Uganda is a signatory to many international legal instruments. The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties talks of the Principle of Pacta sunt servanda. Please, we are bound by the instruments that we have ratified.

I wouldn’t care being convicted if I was a criminal but I know, I am innocent and even if your dysfunctional courts said, I am guilty, I will not be guilty. At least, you must know that Edmary Mpagi spent quite a number of years on a death row in Luzira yet the man was innocent.

Honourable Chief Justice, is it not amazing that people in this government who have openly abused funds meant for the HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria patients are at large while innocent Nuwagaba who complains about abuse and misuse of power and advocates equitable distribution of the national cake through equitable access to education and access to jobs on meritocracy is to be convicted the Kangaroo courts?

I state without any fear of contradiction that the witness the state adduced was too weak to convict even a known criminal. I was given bail on account of the fact that I am a human rights defender of high repute and even the Magistrate accepted that. It would be eccentric that I can just be convicted anyhow. That surely, would mean that the people on whose toes I have always stepped during the course of my human rights research and activism have succeeded in prevailing on the courts to subvert justice. Dr Martin Luther King Jr said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. I would like to state that if Ugandans fail to get justice in the temples of justice, they will surely choose to take the law in their hands and most likely they will resort to mob injustice which many mistakenly call mob justice. I am convinced that even the Saints can be tempted to do that. See Matthew 26:51, mark 14:47, Luke 22:50 and John 18:10. Is it because Simon Peter was a criminal that he cut off the ear of one of Jesus’ captors? No, Peter was provoked and I would pray that if we are to be provoked, let that provocation stop at the Police for heaven’s sake (which is also wrong). If it extends to the Courts of Law, then surely the centre can no longer hold!

I have surely learnt that a moment I go to Luzira, I will not come out alive. I will either die in the cells or there will be a lethal injection administered to me which will kill me slowly. As a human rights defender, I know of such cases!

Background to my ordeals

My Lord, allow me first and foremost tell you that I have undergone the worst forms of torture which include physical, psychological, mental and pharmacological forms of torture if I am to be guided by the anti-torture bill that has been crafted by the Civil Society organisations under the coalition against torture. I have really undergone a very traumatic experience at the hands of state operatives since 11th April 2008 to date. I haven’t been convinced that my predicament is not as a result of my firm belief and advocacy for human dignity which I have been involved in since childhood.

My human rights activism became visible to the state operatives in 2001 when I became a student leader and activist at Makerere University. I believe those who used to read the papers would always see my letters to the editor wherein I always decried the deplorable, inhuman and degrading situation to which Makerere University government sponsored non-resident students were subjected to. As usual, I was ignored but this culminated into a very bad strike in November 2003 at a time when the Prime Minister Apollo Nsibambi was being installed as a Makerere University chancellor. The following day when the New Vision wrote in its editorial condemning students, I wrote back in the Daily Monitor defending students. Within a brink of an eye, students got their money. I was always told by my NRM friend while we were in Lumumba that I was being trailed and he always told me which people were trailing me. As the Banyankole say, a stone that is visible cannot destroy a hoe; the state operatives that were trailing me couldn’t harm me then couldn’t harm me because I knew them.

I also became a member of the popular Ekimezza radio talk show hosted by Radio One in 2001. I am sure, those who used to tune in know my stance on the developments in Uganda, a country which I like so much.

I also vigorously campaigned against expunging term limit proviso from our constitution but I was disregarded. Now, many of us are tasting the bitterness of expunging Article 105(2) from our constitution. While the Ugandan courts are determined to convict me as a criminal, the wretched of the earth whose children are blocked from accessing higher education and jobs look at me with admiration as a liberator. I wish all of us would read Martin Luther King Jr’s “A letter from Birmingham jail”. I strongly believe, with or without me, Ugandan rulers cannot continuously ride on the poor people’s backs unless they are permanently bent. As for me, this is the campaign that I have started and it will sweep out many of the predatory politicians come 2011. I am using a combination of the pen and the tongue and I am quite sure that as long as the message is as plain as a pikestaff, we shall get to the Promised Land.

On 11th, April2008, I was illegally arrested following the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation TV Talk show on Sunday 6th April 2008 on which I featured with workers’ MP Bakabulindi three articles that were consecutively run in the press all of which decried corruption, graduate unemployment and wanton abuse of human rights. I was to be told by my tormentors that I had four files against me with one file being from president Museveni, another one being from the IGP Gen Kayihura while the third and fourth being from the then Minister of Internal Affairs and my area Member of Parliament respectively.

I thought, the policemen were just overzealous but as time goes, I have begun to think that maybe, they were right. I have let the president and the Inspector General of Police know this but my plight continues unabated.

I spent five days in the cells incommunicado undergoing all the worst forms of torture. This was despite the fact that a celebrated professor of Law, John-Jean Barya came for me on 13th April but was blocked. When friends learnt of it I was taken to Butabika after the police had connived with the staff at Butabika Mental Hospital. Butabika was to be used to finally end my life. I was kept in the mental Hospital for nine days forcefully taking drugs that were to finally kill me. All this happened under the supervision of SP Bahimbise.

I have been illegally detained by the Police countless times since then but worth noting is that I almost died between 27th to 30th June 2008 because of the lethal drugs I was subjected to. I have quite often been deprived of my liberty and property in addition to torture.

In May 2009, I filed a suit against the Attorney General and Dr. Tom Onen. To the best of my knowledge, no defence was filed by the defendants and my lawyer and I were accordingly about to apply for ex parte judgement. Ironically, I learnt only last week that my case was dismissed by Mrs Kabanda on 28th August 2009 at a time when I was remanded in Luzira! No grounds for its dismissal have been given; my counsel hasn’t been aware and to date, I am being told that my file cannot be found. Where is justice?

After filing my suit, the policemen took it upon themselves to always arrest me, deprive me of my belongings, detain me and after two days release me on police bond. Surprisingly, whenever I tell them to take me to court, they tell me, never come back here. All they have always done to show me that they are in charge; that they are owners of the state. I have documented these cases and written to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) but he has chosen to ignore me. The IGP has a report about me from the so-called Professional Standards Unit of the Police which I have been denied. I have documented quite vividly what I have gone through and if you picked interest in my matter I will be available.

I know that there are politicians who are ready to sacrifice me because they fear my ideas. I would kindly beg them to sacrifice their domestic animals if they are obsessed with offering sacrifices. If they cannot even be allowed to sacrifice their own children, why should they sacrifice me who owes them nothing? They have deliberately denied me and many other sons and daughters of peasants of opportunities on the meritocracy basis; let them forthwith refrain from interfering with my God-given rights. The basis upon which we are marginalised is the basis upon which we shall organise. Since, we have been marginalised as the peasants’ children, I will continue appealing to the peasants and their children to shun the regime that has marginalised them.

You cannot deny the peasants’ children access to education; access to jobs; access to an adequate standard of living and you expect, Vincent Nuwagaba, a human rights defender to keep silent. I know, Ellie Weasel, a one time Nobel Prize winner said, neutrality helps the oppressor and not the oppressed; silence helps the tormentor and not the victim. I can never be silent; neither can I claim to be neutral. I am surely biased in favour of the marginalised.

Finally, if the courts cannot dispense justice but instead choose to propagate and orchestrate injustice, we shall have no option but to take the law into our hands for then we shall revert into the Hobbesian state of nature where every man was against every man and life was nasty, short and brutish. It is the duty of the courts to guard against such a scenario. I am sure, what I am going through would ably grant me asylum but I don’t want to be pushed out of my country. I therefore, advocate fight and not flight. I remind those who cannot tolerate my views of the famous words of the French enlightenment philosopher Voltaire who said, “I disagree with what you say. But, I will defend to the death your right to say it”. I still want to believe that judiciary brooks no wanton abuse of human rights; that the Directorate of public prosecutions is a human rights defence body and that the Police is a human rights defence institution. After all, Mr. Richard Buteera is a patron to the Uganda Prisoners’ Aid Foundation, a human rights organisation and I hear the IGP Major General Kale Kayihura is a human rights Lawyer who has a Masters degree in Law. I would therefore expect the police and the courts of law to defend human rights at all odds. Otherwise, the hottest compartment in hell will be reserved for those who know what they ought to have done but deliberately chose to do what they ought not to have done. For God and my country!

Yours truly,

Vincent Nuwagaba

Email: cell: +256702843552

CC: Attorney General

CC: Director of Public Prosecutions

CC: Uganda Human Rights Commission

CC: Inspector General of Police

CC: UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

CC: Amnesty International

CC: International Crisis Group

CC: Human Rights Watch

CC: East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders’ Project

CC: Foundation for Human Rights Initiative

CC: Chairperson, Legal and Parliamentary Committee

CC: Hon Kahinda Otafiire, MP representing Ruhinda County

CC: Michael Senyonjo, Ugandan Human Rights Defender based in the United Kingdom


One Comment so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Jonny Rubin.,

    It is a very sad situation Mr. Vincent Nuwagaba is in and I hope and pray that justice will prevail. A very courageous man who exhibits the love of his country in a manner that lives no doubt at all. Surely, where is justice? And who is this who manages to manipulate the entire justice system, so that innocent people like Mr. Vincent Nuwagaba end up in a mental institution instead of the Court of Justice? Apparently, this does not only happen in Uganda, it happens also in other countries you may never suspect of such injustice. My immediate concern though, is my motherland, Uganda which for so many years, is still yawning for peace, justice and democratic governance.

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