President Yoweri Kaguta Musveni has condemned to the recent beating and torturing of media practitioners during the Free Bobi Wine protests in the heart of Kampala.
In a statement issued on 22nd August, Museveni said that while some journalists might be at fault, and sometimes interfere with crime scenes, they can be arrested and charged for disobeying lawful orders, imprisoned, fined hanged etc instead of beating them.
“I condemn, again, in the strongest terms the beating of journalists by elements of the Security forces. It is true that the journalists working for foreign interests or for our own local parasites tell lies, they do not do balanced reporting. On account of that you can block them because sometimes they interfere with the scene of crime. If they refuse, you arrest them and charge them with disobeying lawful command. Beating, however, is wrong because the Security forces do not have that power. People should not be beaten even as a punishment. They can be imprisoned, fined, hanged, etc according to the law and logic but they cannot, be beaten (flogged) except if the Police is dispersing a menacing mob threatening to kill people or damage property. In some countries, they use batons.” Museveni.
This comment follows the unrealistic scenes that saw Journalists covering protests against the continued detention of the Kyaddondo East Member of Parliament, Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu also known as Bobi Wine suffer the wrath of the army and police.
According the Human Rights Network for Journalists (HRNJ) Journalists Ronald Galiwango and Juma Kirya of NTV, Julius Muhumuza of Dream TV, Alfred Ochwol of the Observer and James Akena a photojournalists with the Reuters News Agency sustained body injuries and bruises as a result of the beating by the police and the army.
The journalists also had their gadgets confiscated and journalistic work deleted by the security agents. They were separately pushed under the police patrol which was manned by army men and driven around before delivered to the Central Police Station.
“I am in total pain, I have two of my fingers fractured, three big swellings at the back of my skull (head) – they were seriously targeting the head. I don’t know why all this terror. My camera is gone, I don’t know if I will get it back again….” Akena told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Another victim journalist Juma Kirya told HRNJ-Uganda that they were deliberately targeted. “I was with my cameraman Ronald Galiwango, we were filming when the army attacked us, confiscated our gadgets, arrested us and pushed us under the police pick up. They beat us with sticks even when we kept pleading that we’re journalists, we had our press jackets on all that time. The army men destroyed another journalist’s camera right there.” Juma told HRNJ-Uganda
The journalists were later released at the Central Police Station by the police without any charges preferred against them.
The attacks come barely a week after another group of journalists were arrested and assaulted by the presidential guard force of SFC in Arua as they covered the Arua Municipality by-elections in an operation which led to the killing of Bobi Wine’s driver and other legislators arrested and brutally beaten. The journalists were detained and later charged with incitement to violence and malicious damage to property, they were released on bond two days later.
“The media operating environment in the country is deteriorating especially at the hands of the security agents who have the mandate to protect the journalists and other Ugandans. We know that the journalists are innocent victims who need to be protected to do their work. Those perpetrating violence against journalists must be brought to book.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda Executive Director Robert Ssempala.
President Museveni’s Full Statement:
I have read your comments in response to my earlier statement. I thank all of you for giving your views. This is a good and productive way of communicating; no need for violence and “fujo”.
There is, however, one element that people are not bringing out in these comments. This is the issue of the unemployed Bazukulu in the towns and villages. It is one of the elements, in fact the main element, the unprincipled politicians cynically (concerned only with one’s own interests and typically disregarding accepted standards in order to achieve them) use to lure our youth into demonstrations and riots.
Our unemployed youth are a problem but a good one given that we have already laid the basis for resolving unemploymentthrough the economic recovery programme ever since 1987. What proof do I have? Look at our import bill of US$5bn per annum. The other day, at Kololo, while graduating the 4,000 Bazukulu of my daughter Nakyobe’s girl child skilling programme, I gave the list of the haemorrhage (bleeding) of our hard earned dollars importing from outside products that should be made by you, the youth, here. Some of the items are the following:
- Shoes- US$ 51m
- Maize-flour -US$ 54m
- Medicine -US$295m
- Second hand clothes -US$ 73m etc etc
With the support of the Government, many youth can get work sites and equipment to make many of those items here- thereby, creating jobs for themselves and for others. I have already shown you how this can be done by supporting the youth and non-youth groups in Katwe (motor-mechanics etc), Nsambya (furniture), Najjera (metal fabrication), Wobulenzi (grain milling and animal feeds mixing), Rukungiri (furniture making, metal fabrication etc), Nakyobe girl child skilling programmes (shoes making, cloth weaving, knitting, embroidery, confectionery, beautician skills) etc etc. How are those groups doing – well or badly? If they are doing well, for the individuals involved and for the country, then these pilot projects should be turned into a national movement of import- substitution and export promotion.
Above, I just pointed out the areas that are easiest to move in. The areas that need more skills are:
- Automobiles – US$ 292m
- Electrical equipment- US$ 49m
- Electronics (TV sets, mobile phones, computers etc) – US$ 200m etc etc.
These types of projects are being done or will be done by our educated youth (scientists), foreign investors or some of our local business people converting from importing to import- substitution and export promotion.
Then there are the really big projects like steel- making (in Tororo), phosphates fertilizers (Tororo), gold refinery (Entebbe), Copper and cobalt processing (Kasese) etc. These can only be done by either the foreign investors or by Government parastatals. All these are already in progress and we now have enough electricity, the roads are being worked on, the railway is planned.
Therefore, the unprincipled politicians who mislead our youth into rioting or actually pay them to riot or to commit arson must be condemned. Also to be criticized are the NRM leaders who do not engage these youth and squander resources in unnecessary foreign travels and other non- priority expenditures.
We now have the money, if prioritization is correct, to launch a serious assault on the poverty and hopelessness that renders our Bazukulu vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation by unprincipled politicians. I have proof of this which I will bring out at the right moment.
There is another area of jobs access which I do not like myself but it is better than nothing as of now- as we organize ourselves better. These are the foreign jobs. The Ministry of Labour is letting us down here by allowing businessmen to exploit our youth by charging each youth between Shs2 and 8million to be allowed to access a job outside. This is too much. I have already picked this up and I will resolve it. I, however, prefer local jobs.
Coming to the responses, therefore, I say the following:
- I salute those who understood and appreciated my explanations for the unfortunate events in Jinja East, Bugiri and Arua. Those who were positive to my explanations were people like:Ssebandeke Yakoub, Amos Nkamuhaabwa, Ronald Kisseka , Aggrey Mugume, Ssebunya Shafique, Kyoyesiga Nobert, Hosea Luberenga, Prosper, Nelson Luyima, Abdi Ngurusi, Abenawe, etc etc.
- There were others who were either sceptical or negative. These were people like: Noel Spears, Daddy’s gal, Watuwa Jim James, Dan Okello, Jerry Gitta, Richard Tuwangye, Walakira Moses, Edith Mwigiri, Brandon Raymond, Atugonza Jackson, Tumukunde Comfort, Andeman Daku etc etc.
I will get time to respond to their views. I am going to get time and answer some of these comments one by one. I am too ready to engage in the debate. These seem to say that the Government should not take a firm stand on the politically motivated attacks on women, children, adults, damage to property or rape because as Jajja I should ignore those acts. That opinion is wrong. 70% of the registered voters stayed away from voting in Arua because of that violence. A person died in Bugiri and another one died in Arua on account of that. That must stop. We need discipline so that we roll out our well-conceived and already demonstrated strategy of transforming Uganda.
Besides, peace is a right of every Ugandan. You have absolutely no right to trample over my Kiosk, damage my shop or my car or cause damage to my farm because of your political ambitions. Peace is a right and not a favour from anybody. If you want to make a political statement, work with the Police, walk peacefully to an agreed, non- populated point and give your views. In UK, they have Hyde Park. In Uganda, people can use Kololo or other rally points. After the rallies, the organizers should tell the followers to go home peacefully. Is that too much?
- I must condemn in the strongest terms the shooting by the Police of one of our Bazukulu, Sekisivu, who was in a taxi, together with others, going to participate in football matches somewhere else. The Policemen involved will be punished. Fortunately, they were identified. It was either panicky actions on their part or even malice , aimed at spoiling the name of the NRM. These people were not part of the rioters in Mityana. Why shoot them? This is very much regretted.
- However, we must not forget to condemn the Mityana rioters who were the original cause of this confusion and who looted the kiosks of the low income earners. I will visit them and support them. That riot was organized by people associated with the indisciplined MP, Hon. Zaake. The facts will come out.
- I condemn in the strongest terms, the killing of somebody, in the Katwe area, whose name I have not yet been told by elements of the Security forces. When I asked the Police, I was told of a stray bullet being responsible for the death. A stray bullet (a bullet that goes away from the target) originally aimed at what and why?
I was told that the Kampala demonstrating groups of Monday were more of a nuisance than a menace- which the Arua groups were. The Monday groups were operating in small groups, burning tyres and, then, sending them to social media, working for those who pay them, to show that Uganda is unstable. The enemies of Uganda are now worried at the emerging strength of the economy of Uganda.
The Permanent secretary Ministry of Trade of Kenya , who was here with the Deputy President of Kenya, the other day, told me that for the months of January, February, March, April, and May(2018), Uganda exported more to Kenya than the other way round. The enemies of Uganda are really worried about the growing strength of this economy.
Therefore, our youth groups of Monday were more of a nuisance and psychological warfare than a menace, unless I get new facts. Why then, shoot at them, why fire tear-gas, why fire bullets? Those mobile, tyre burning groups, who are not attacking anybody, should simply be chased on foot, identified from light helicopters (206- Agusto type) or UAUs, arrested and be charged with appropriate offences. In such a situation the issue of stray- bullets does not arrive. A stray- bullet is fired horizontally at a target but misses and hits another person. When you fire up in order to scare, you cannot talk of a stray bullet. By the time the bullet falls back on the ground it will be like a stone. I doubt that it can kill. Unless I get new facts, I provisionally, condemn that act and demand investigations into the circumstances by the Police and other Agencies. The dead person should be identified so that we can assist the family.
- I condemn, again, in the strongest terms the beating of journalists by elements of the Security forces. It is true that the journalists working for foreign interests or for our own local parasites tell lies, they do not do balanced reporting. On account of that you can block them because sometimes they interfere with the scene of crime. If they refuse, you arrest them and charge them with disobeying lawful command. Beating, however, is wrong because the Security forces do not have that power. People should not be beaten even as a punishment. They can be imprisoned, fined, hanged, etc according to the law and logic but they cannot, be beaten (flogged) except if the Police is dispersing a menacing mob threatening to kill people or damage property. In some countries, they use batons.
On the issue of releasing Bobi Wine and the others , the President of Uganda does not have such powers. Once somebody is arrested, charged and remanded, it is only two authorities who can release such people in any way: the Courts or the DPP withdrawing charges if the evidence is not enough. Let us therefore, wait for the Courts and see what they decide.
Richard Tuwangye mentioned that confronting the rioters may affect Tourism and will give a bad image to Uganda. Yes, in the short-run, it may. However, in the long- run it will pay because opportunists will stop playing around with the stability of the country. Tuwangye’s scepticism about importing voters by the opposition will be reversed once he sees the evidence in Courts.
Finally, the anti-riot SOPs(Standard Operational Procedures) give the whole spectrum of options: warning rioters using loud- speakers, using shields and batons, using tear gas, using rubber bullets, using water – cannons, using rifles but firing in the air and, finally, shooting directly at the rioter in self- defence( for the Security personnel), to stop him harming a mwanainchi or damaging property if they do not pay heed. Therefore, Bazukulu, do not be misled by those who are misusing you that the Security cannot use deadly force. It all depends on the circumstances.
Yoweri K. Museveni