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.
The Uganda police has been reduced into a small armed group that fights political opposition while part-timing at law keeping #ImpunityUG
— Qatahar Raymond (@qataharraymond) July 12, 2015
Just because we are grateful for the revolution doesn't mean we must spend our lives paying for it. because now, we are fed up #ImpunityUG
— Spartakussug (@spartakussug) July 13, 2015
I cry for all innocent Ugandans who are in prisons for the wrong reasons and we are not noticing them coz they are not tweeps. #ImpunityUG
— Waiswa Batambuze (@IBatambuze) July 13, 2015
While we defeat terrorism from the extremist, we grapple with the terror we lay upon our own. #ImpunityUg #FreeDanny pic.twitter.com/fcQFhcus03
— Jacob Eyeru (@eyjacob) July 12, 2015
A few days ago it had been all about freeing politicians, now it's our own friends? Government, screwed this up #FreeDanny #ImpunityUg
— Josh Agaba (@AObedJ) julio 12, 2015
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:
Charge Sheet of @DannyT_UG & 6 others. Lies peddled online about Assault must be rebuked #ImpunityUG @nickopiyo pic.twitter.com/HczAKVeh7O
— Masake Anthony (@masakeonline) July 13, 2015
While JoanNe N☆Nvannungi called on Ugandans to start documenting police impunity:
Next step is for #Ugandans to start capturing this #ImpunityUG on camera, videos&pics.Share & let's get the police behaving how they should.
— JoanNe N☆Nvannungi (@she_infinite) July 13, 2015
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:
30 minutes later, responses to what The Zeitgeist should cover. Keep ‘em coming. Vote here http://t.co/iECHt5wwfL pic.twitter.com/y6IzhdHdfl
— (Name goes here) (@Samwyri) July 18, 2015