March 2012

Day March 23, 2012

A4C & Opposition Press Statement on the Death of a Police Officer

Ladies and Gentlemen,

AT Kampala, March 23, 2012 – We are issuing this statement on behalf of all opposition leaders and activists in order to set the record straight about the events of Wednesday 21st March 2011 and also to respond to deliberate misinformation and outrageous allegations that have been leveled against us following those events.

Wednesday’s activity was not an A4C activity. It was an event held at the behest of the Lord Mayor of Kampala City, Erias Lukwago who invited his colleague the Mayor of Kawempe, the Woman Member of Parliament for Kampala and FDC President Kizza Besigye to accompany him and advise him as he inspected development activities and services in the city. The Lord Mayor notified police in writing, which he did not have to do; and his letter was acknowledged. The police was therefore fully aware of the activity that took place on Wednesday and in fact they joined the touring party early on and walked along until the time they decided to disrupt the Lord Mayor’s legitimate activity.

The visit went on smoothly with the population expressing excitement and jubilation upon seeing their leaders taking an active interest in their welfare. The police joined the group of leaders almost at the beginning of the visit and moved alongside them on Kafumbe Mukasa Road, Namirembe Road and on to Ben Kiwanuka Road; without incident. The situation only changed for the worse when the Lord Mayor was stopped from proceeding along Ben Kiwanuka Road bringing his visit to a premature halt.

Once the Mayor and his entourage were stopped, the crowd around them grew bigger but it was still a happy crowd until Police decided to disperse the crowd by brutally beating innocent people with batons and spraying them with teargas and pepper spray. Police’s brutal actions were uncalled for and it was their actions that led to unfortunate scenes of violence, which we condemn strongly. This was another clear example where the police worked for the political interests of the NRM dictatorship rather than the security interests of the people of Kampala.

We have since been informed by the police that Asst. Inspector of Police John Bosco Ariong died from injuries sustained during the fracas that was started by the Police. We wish to extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends. We’re keenly aware that most police men are as frustrated as the rest of the citizenry and also look forward to the day when their living conditions can be improved. We are disappointed that government has been quick to blame opposition leaders and activists for his death even before investigating the matter.

We wish to reiterate our commitment to using non-violent means to bring about political changes in our country. This commitment is ideological and strategic because we firmly believe that use of violence will maintain the vicious cycle of repression, injustice and instability. We want, for the first time in Uganda’s history; to transfer power from the guns to the people of Uganda. It is this prospect that causes fear and panic to the military dictatorship.

The public is aware that the government has for some time tried to criminalize the increasingly popular protests and rallies by opposition activists in a bid to silence all dissent and opposition to government’s unpopular policies and corrupt practices. Last October, the Inspector General of Police made public statements attempting to link Activists for Change to Taliban terrorists and Al qaeda. These wild allegations failed to gain traction even with A4C’s strongest critics and in a bid to salvage their mission of criminalizing the opposition; the Police slapped charges of treason on several A4C organizers and activists. As opposition activities have grown in popularity, security forces have become more desperate and reckless in their shenanigans to incriminate activists so much so that some quarters have suggested that Mr. Ariong may have been sacrificed to further their evil plans.

We therefore call on the authorities to ensure a quick and thorough investigation into the death of John Bosco Ariong in order to find answers to the questions raised by the manner in which he died. Specifically, a postmortem must be carried out to establish the cause of death and the object used to cause death. Reports indicate that nine suspects have been charged with the murder yet it is inconceivable that nine people in a crowd threw one object that caused the death.

We do not recall the government reacting with such conviction against violence when unarmed civilians were killed by those supposed to protect them. As we mourn the death of John Bosco Ariong, we wish to remember all unarmed civilians including baby Juliana Gift Nalwanga (Masaka), Dan Musa Wasaga (Gulu), Adoni Mugisu, Charles Odur, Semuga Kanabi (Nakivubo), Sam Mufumbiro ( Owino), Frank Kizito (Masajja), Wilber Mugalazi (Bweyogerere), Augustine Guwatudde (Namasuba), James Mukibi and others who have died at the hands of reckless armed security officers during legitimate public protests in recent times.

The death of Mr. Ariong has given the government a new platform to intensify repression against opposition activists and regrettably, Mr. Museveni is calling for the speedy passing of an unconstitutional law to deny bail to protestors as a deterrent for protests against his government. His characteristic response to crush protestors is a threat that we shall ignore as we go about our duties as opposition leaders and activists. These deaths should act as motivation to strengthen our commitment to the Bill of Rights and not to further curtail our civil rights and liberties. As opposition leaders and activists we shall not be intimidated by threats of violence and incarceration and we shall continue to engage the public and to execute our legitimate roles.

Hon. Nathan Nandala Mafabi, (MP)Leader of Opposition

Hon. Mathias Mpuuga, (MP) Coordinator Activist for Change

Police should do real Police work but Onek is a big disappointment!

Reading the words of the powerful Hilary Onek, comparing opposition demonstrators to Kony, reminds one of the adage that absolute power corrupts absolutely! This kind of talk is not expected of a man of his “disputed education”. How come this Onek has never seen fit to condemn civilian killings by the police or the brutal Aminic era treatment of opposition leader Besigye at the hands of the police?

Of course the aim of using a word like Kony on the opposition is the same reason why a word like cockroaches was used on the Tutsis in Rwanda – to demonise them so that people, especially the police in this case, feel no constraints in mistreating or even killing them! Address the issues of the demonstrators and they will run out of steam.

Do not use the police as an arm of the NRM but as a force that protects and guides all Ugandans equally, regardless of political leanings! We don’t want our police officers dying as NRM cadres illegally attempting to stifle the opposition. I think Onek should be held responsible if the violence on both sides escalates as result of his incitement!

A judicial inquiry should be made into the actions of the police force and demonstrators during demonstrations so that guidelines that allow for freedom of expression as well as for sensible policing are observed. The military approach that seems aimed at intimidating Ugandans into a quivering cowardly silence is obviously not working. Ugandans are becoming more aggressive and more resentful of a police force that is supposed to be their partner and friend in fighting crime and fostering order but seems to be the chief source of chaos. Gen. Kaihura needs to go back to the drawing board or he may find that he did more to foster rebellion in Uganda than any imaginary rebel groups! Remember that the real aim of a demonstration is to inconvenience the public by ‘being in their face’ so that they hear about your complaint/grievance because you feel the other channels do not afford you a better ear. Given this, how do we strike a balance.

Demonstrations can be a great pain in the proverbial you know what, but they are our protection against dictatorship, and democracies all over the world have in their foolishness left them on their statutes as a fail safe against things that Dictator that you magically cannot remove no matter how many times you beat him at the elections! The demonstration also protects the rights of one citizen against the dictatorship of the majority! We have a right to defer! The fellow yonder may be talking what I consider to be rubbish but I should be willing to die for his right to say his piece – that should be the creed of every Ugandan if we are to have the real fundamental change.

Paget Kintu

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