After Youth Activists’ Arrest, Ugandans Speak Out Against Police Impunity

Kampala, Uganda. 27 April 2012 -- Riot police walk past the entrance to the Gaddafi National Mosque in Old Kampala. Photo by Will Boase. Copyright Demotix

Kampala, Uganda. 27 April 2012 — Riot police walk past the entrance to the Gaddafi National Mosque in Old Kampala. Photo by Will Boase. Copyright Demotix

Earlier this month, 14 Ugandan youth were detained by the police after holding a press conference to demand free and fair elections. Political activist Andrew Karamagi used the occasion to call for electoral reforms at Centenary Park in the capital, Kampala. The police rounded them up accusing them of unlawful assembly under the Public Order Management Act.

The youth arrested are believed to be affiliated to the opposition Democratic Alliance and wanted to discuss the arrest of opposition politicians Kizza Besigye and former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi.

Silver Kayondo's post on Solidarity Uganda blog offers an idea of the conditions that the arrested would find in Ugandan prisons. Kayondo wrote the piece after going to Central Police Station in Kampala in 2014 to visit his friend, who had been detained for having “shown his displeasure with Uganda's Attorney General's speech on how the Ugandan Government was complying with the rule of law.”

Back at the jail room, I was joined by two other friends from law school – Perez Onyait Odeke and Jonathan Mwesigwa Ssekiziyivu who were also there to visit Andrew. They had arrived earlier than me but they had been told that the police had instructions (from a higher authority) not to let anyone see Andrew before 1 p.m because “it was a special case.” Perez had been told to keep away from the Police Station lest he would be charged with being idle and disorderly! I found him standing at the City Square park – a public square that is cordoned off by police. We had walked back to the police station together. Jonathan was sitting on the short perimeter wall at the station. After exchanging a few jokes as we waited for the scheduled time, we set off for the police reception.

At the reception, one cannot fail to see the sorry state of the police station. The chairs are torn and tattered. The investigations rooms reeking with a pungent stench of human sweat and the humans there compete with reptiles (wall geckos and lizards) for space! Very little facelift has been done on the police station which we inherited from the British colonialists in 1962. The cement walls and floor are cracked. The store room where the suspects property (shoes, belts, caps, etc) are kept is not locked and it has no lockable drawers.

Returning to the present case, Raymond Qatahar and Samson Tusiime visited one of the arrested youths, Daniel Arinaitwe Turitwenka, who happens to be their friend. Although the youth were in a good shape when the duo visited, they discovered that there was a police officer who had spent two weeks in detention without any form of trial. This enraged them into launching a hashtag #ImpunityUg.

Daniel Arinaitwe Turitwenka and his friends were later taken to court, charged with disobeying a lawful order and later released on cash bail. Masake Anthony of Chapter Four Uganda shared the charge sheet:

While JoanNe N☆Nvannungi called on Ugandans to start documenting police impunity:

Spurred on by the discussion, Samson Tusiime and Raymond Qatahar have launched a project called the THEZEITGIEST that will discuss topical issues that affect Ugandans. The project will mainly be a face-to-face meetings, which will be recorded with the audio shared online:


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