Ugandans are not about to keep quiet about the abductions of people, even after President Yoweri Museveni came out to say that his presidential protection force the Special Forces Command 9SFC) is responsible for holding them.
The National Unity Platform (NUP) which shocked the country by upsetting ruling party candidates, says as many as 3000 members remain unaccounted for.
The general public has grown weary of armed security forces moving in unnumbered Toyota Hiace vehicles dubbed ‘drones’, after the same vehicles have hijacked numerous people from different parts of the country.
Addressing supporters in his home towards the end of February, NUP President Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu accuses the government of violating Uganda’s constitution and international law by keeping people in prison and torturous conditions without being brought into courts of law.
Civil Society Organisations have joined the call on government to release the missing persons.
The Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) called a news conference in Kampala this week and urged government to account for all Ugandans that have been reported missing before and after the January 14, general elections.
CCEDU National Coordinator Charity Ahimbisibwe, told journalists on Wednesday.
“This is a direct infringement on their rights as guaranteed in Article 29 of the Constitution that provides for the rights to assemble and associate with a political thinking of one’s choice,” she said.
She noted that Ugandans have been hurt enough and that families have wept for long with only one desire to have answers from the state on the whereabouts of their relatives.
CCEDU has also opened a toll-free line for relatives of people who went missing and are allegedly kidnapped by security agents. According to CCEDU, many of the missing people were abducted because of their political affiliations.
They have promised to provide free legal aid to the families of the victims and also hold government responsible for not respecting human rights.
Ahimbisibwe further said that while CCEDU acknowledges that security forces are constitutionally mandated to arrest any member of the public once suspected to be capable of committing crime, the organization remains cognizant of the obligation to give people a fair hearing.
“People who are arrested by security forces and later reported by their families as missing have to be subjected to two cardinal principles in the rule of law as provided by the constitution. The non- dirigible right of habeas corpus (right to be produced in court dead on alive) and the right to a fair hearing, anything short of this means the security are acting outside constitutional means of resolving conflicts,” she said.
Confusion on actual number of missing persons
General Jeje Odongo, the Minister of Internal Affairs last week presented a list of 177 missing Ugandans before parliament which he said are the only people under security detaining facilities on possession of military stores while he said others were planning an insurrection.
Opposition political parties more so the National Unity Platform however, have since rubbished the lists by the Minister with a release of their own list with over 400 missing party supporters.
Reports indicated that only 71 people appear to be on both the government list of 177 tabled before parliament by Gen Odongo and on the NUP list that was also presented in Parliament by NUP Vice President central region Mathias Mpuuga last week.
The lists further implied that 106 persons on the government list were not known to NUP before the Minister tabled them before parliament.
It further implied that 609 people on the NUP list tabled before the house are still unaccounted for.
However, Gen Odongo said before parliament that government was still into detailed investigations and that the list was not final.
NUP party spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi said that the struggle to demand for unconditional release of those in jail and accountability for those whose whereabouts have not been established still goes on.
“The main objective is not for them to come and tell us that we have these people; we want them released unconditionally,” said Ssenyonyi while contacted on phone.