The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mike Chibita has withdrawn charges of Abuse of Inferiors against a Rhino FM Programmes Director Augustine Okello. Abuse of Inferior is provided for under Section 141 of the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces Act, and applies to UPDF soldiers. Augustine was initially charged with treason in 2011 but was amended to Abuse of inferiors in October 2017.
Appearing before judge Flavia Anglin Ssenoga of the High Court, Barbara Masinde, a Senior State Attorney who represented the State told court, ‘the DPP has instructed me to inform court that he has decided to withdraw charges against all the accused persons. I have a Nolle Prosecui dated 19th February 2018, serial number 3077”.
“The DPP has withdrawn charges against you, so you are discharged forthwith,” said Justice Ssenoga.
“Am grateful to HRNJ-Uganda that has been there for me from day one. They have supported me financially, guiding me with the help of the legal team. After a very long struggle of over 7 years. A lot of resources were wasted, time, money and the psychological torture that I have gone through. It is a big load that has brought me down for seven years. I need to wake up and begin a new life now. If it wasn’t this, I would be very far in my career,” Augustine told HRNJ-Uganda.
Okello was kidnapped on the evening of 13th July 2011 under unclear circumstances in Lira District after holding a number of meetings with the District Internal Security Officer (DISO) Stephen Eriaku and another police man attached to Lira Central Police station. He suspects that his arrest was connected to a song that was a tribute to Milton Obote-former President of Uganda which was played frequently on Rhino FM.
He was detained incommunicado for more than two weeks in different places including the Kitante based Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and Kireka, the headquarters of Rapid Response Unit (RRU). RRU has since been disbanded and incorporated into other security organs (SIU).
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) filed for habeas corpus (Production Warrant) at High Court in Lira which pressurized security agencies. He was later produced to Buganda Road court where he was charged with treason and concealment of treason.
“We are pleased with the withdrawal of charges against Augustine but concerned with the delays in which cases are handled. It’s been a tough seven years where the journalist has been required to report to the Registrar criminal division every month. We appeal to the DPP to ensure that cases are thoroughly investigated to avoid inconveniences of this nature resulting from pre-trial detention,” said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator Robert Ssempala.