NRM Thugs beat me up such that i’m not ready to return to Uganda- George Okello

Friends at UAH,
I am not an “illegal immigrant” in the UK. Nobody can force me to leave the UK. I can only leave of my own free will. It is not the UK racist anti-immigrant laws that brought me to the UK. It is the UN Declaration on the Rights of Refugees of 1954 that brought me to the UK.I am therefore in the UK under the protection of the United Nations. The UK cannot return me to Uganda. This is termed “refoulment” in international law and is considered a serious violation of international law.

Section 33(1) of the Charter specifically forbids the return or expulsion of anyone who has been recognised as a refugee; such a person cannot be returned to his or to any other country. The only exception granted under the charter is if a refugee becomes “a danger to national security”. And my children cannot be expelled or forced to come to Uganda because they are British citizens.

Also I would need guarantees about my safety if I were to openly return to Uganda. My experiences so far have not been good. The last time I returned, I was kidnapped and imprisoned in Lubiri barracks where I was badly tortured. On the day of my release, I went personally to see Judge Odoki in his chambers at the High Court and narrated my ordeal. He merely told me he was shocked, but otherwise he said he had no comments to make.

The only NRA people that I know, who are high enough, are Mugisha Muntu and Henry Tumukunde, but both of them are out of favour. The other is Aston Kajara, my former classmate who actually helped me recover my £3,000 (less £500) that had been confiscated from me at Entebbe airport by the NRA guards, but although he is a government minister, he is not a military man.

I think I will just cross into Uganda through the village routes,avoiding the border posts altogether.The NRA people are ruthless, but may be very few of them now will recognise me anyway if I returned to Uganda. It is only those in the top ranks of military intelligence who would do so, to be precise. I doubt that the hired goons, the Kiboko squads or the black mambas would recognise me.

The last time I returned, I made a mistake of exposing myself so they very quickly got wind of my presence in the country. Because my money (£3000) had been stolen at Entebbe airport, the following morning I went to Professor Karugire’s office to try to get back the money or what was left of it. He was then the Director General of Customs and I knew him when he was a lecturer at Makerere University- besides I worked with him on one of the first Commissions of Inquiry that Museveni established in 1986. Also working at Customs at the time was Aston Kajara, my former classmate and now a government minister. The two of them promised to retrieve my money, which they did, minus £500.

The second day, I went to see Mugisha Muntu at Lubiri barracks and he in turn took me to see Amanya Mushega, who was then Minister of State for Defence. I arranged to see Muntu a few days later and then returned to town and kept calling on very many friends that day. On day three, I went to Makerere University to see Professors Jjuko, Khiddu Makubuya and Kiapi at the Law School to discuss my joining the faculty as a Lecturer as I was soon completing my Master’s degree.Professor Kiapi offered me a position as Lecturer, to teach Constitutional Law and to introduce Conflict of Laws as a new subject, to start at the beginning of the next academic year in september (my Master’s programme was ending in June).

On the fourth day, I went to the Law Development Centre to see Persy Tuhaise, my former classmate who was teaching there and is now a judge at the High Court. I was in a hurry, because I needed to meet other people at Uganda House, and also to meet a delegation of Kenyan lawyers who were visiting Uganda, so I told Persy I would come back to pick her up after 6 PM so we could go out for dinner. So I walked through Makerere Kivulu to Uganda House, then late afternoon went for a drink in a bar somewhere on the streets while waiting for my brother to come and pick me up and drop me at the LDC.

At around 6.30 PM, the NRA thugs struck. They wanted to search me, which I resisted as they had no warrant of arrest and were not wearing uniforms. That is when they set upon me like a pack of hungry wolves. I have never in my life been beaten so badly by about 7 or 9 people, who definitely were of Rwandan extraction. There soon gathered a huge crowd on the road watching all that was happening, it must have gone on for more than 30 minutes.

Some women came begging the thugs, asking them to stop it, telling them they were about to kill me as I lay prostrate on the ground, almost lifeless. I was then tied up kandooya style, dropped at the back of a pick-up truck then and driven to the Central Police station. Seeing me lying down on the floor, tied up and bleeding very profusely, the station commander refused to take me into custody. He said he couldn’t take the risk as I could die and he did not want to take the blame. I was then dumped into Lubiri barracks and became a disappeared person as my family did not know where I was taken.

After my release, I attempted to fly out through Entebbe airport, but I was forcefully removed from the plane just minutes before it took off and told to report to Central Police station on a daily basis to Nyakairima Aronda himself, who I think at the time was the military intelligence officer based at the CPS whose role was to interrogate people considered a threat to national security. But I left the country anyway that same day, because somehow I knew if I Aronda got hold of me, the man was going to make me disappear completely. Of this I was sure. People like Mugisha Muntu or Tumukunde might have protected me, but not Aronda. That is how heartless the man is.

So , it is only just out of cowardice that I have not returned to Uganda, but this is not the case because I am biding my time.The only time I was completely stateless was in 1988. I had fled Uganda, got a fellowship from the British Foreign Office to study for a Masters degree, but after the course, I had nowhere to go as I could not return to Uganda. I went to Nairobi to attend a conference organised by the Public Law Institute, then run by the late Dr Okii Ooko Ombaka, this was a one week conference, but after that, I did not know where I would go next- all I had were savings from my fellowship which was barely £2,000.

But fortunately for me, I presented such an outstanding paper at the conference that that same evening, Dr Ombaka came to my room and asked me what I planned to do. I told him I would appreciate if I got a job as a teaching assistant at the Law School at Nairobi University. He went and talked to Professor Atieno Odhiambo who was then the dean of Law. Professor Odhiambo, who had listened to me paper, told me about the job in the Philippines for an International Human Rights Lawyer. He was on the Boartd of the organisation and he told me I could take it if I wanted. Three months later, I was in the Philippines. And that is where i got my first wife and kid.

George Okello
UAH member in London


5 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Hello George Okello,
    What a shocking story! All I can state here is that, “The blow which does not kill you makes you stronger”.
    When I think about what I have past through and what I am still trying to achieve, my feeling is that my situation does not compare with any other. After reading your article here, I realize that there are certainly many more with similar, or worse experiences.
    May your sad experience be an inspiration to finding a solution for all the troubles our country is going through.
    BJ. Rubin.

  2. Simon,

    George Okello,

    There are so many people who have met similar or worse treatment. I know of one Acholi lad who was made to dig an ant hill, opening it from the top and then asked to climb and enter it, with the red ants cutting on his skin. After the ordeal, he successfully escaped to UK, you might be living with the same guy. Ever wondered how monstrous some human beings can be?

    God bless you but on a good note, you acquired a clan from the far east. You will be Lord at home, one time.


  3. You are Lucky to know all those banyarwanda !collaboration does not pay we miss Uganda too but refuse to eat at the same table with the occupants.AKUME


  4. Allan Kato,

    Oh come on!! That incident must have happened a quarter century ago (1988 & before) but you make it sound like yesterday! Why would a junior NCO like Aronda want to disappear you? These kind of stories were just used by you guys to get asylum!! Disgusting!!

  5. Asylum seekers!!!!! why dont you come back home?Stop deceiving yourselves!Uganda is a better Country now,it is only the tribalists and the terrorists who have no vacancy here the rest are well come.Besigye is here with his friends.why are you a refugee in Uk?
    One thing that amuses me with some of you in the diaspora is that you dont have real facts of what is happening on ground back home,you rely basically on newspapers which most times do not present the real picture!
    Uganda is growing,a few disgruntled ones are always there in every society,but our country is moving on despite a few challenges

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