120 days, no bail for NUP detainees! families say it’s heartbreaking

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When National Unity Platform (NUP’s) Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine met families of his campaign crew who were arrested during a Campain Rally in Kalangala four months ago, some spouted anguish.  

A parent of one of the detained crew members told Bobi Wine during the meeting at the NUP headquarters in Kamwokya this month that he was solely responsible for the detention of his son, wondering why the candidate himself wasn’t detained with them for this long. Bobi Wine’s soothing words did not soothe this parent in any way.

After the meeting, he turned to Twitter and posted; “This morning had a breakfast meeting with parents, siblings and spouses of comrades who are under illegal detention. Despite the challenges posed by the absence of their loved ones, I was delighted to note they understand the problem which our country faces.”  

But, it appears that not everyone understands the problem Bobi Wine refers to in the tweet. A wife of a detainee was exasperated when this reporter reached out to her on phone, requesting an interview on Wednesday. She feels betrayed by NUP. “Leave me with my problems,” she said, declining the interview request.  

Although more than 100 supporters and campaign crew members of Bobi Wine were arrested in Kalangala on December  30, 2020, only 36 remain in detention at Kitalya Prison, facing charges of illegal possession of firearms. They include Ali Bukeni alias Nubian Li, Edward Ssebuufu alias Eddie Mutwe, Hassan Ssemakula alias Abdul Souldier, Kenny Kyalimpa, Mudde Ntambi, William Nyanzi alias Mbogo, Lukeman Mwijukye alias Kampala, Muhammad Nsubuga alias Eddoboozi, Adam Matovu, Shakirah Nambozo alias Sukie, Ibrahim Tamale, Muzafuru Mwanje alias Main Gate, and Ismail Nyanzi Kaddu.

The other detainees include Achileo Kivumbi, Joseph Onzima alias Tawa, Anthony Agaba alias Bobi Young and Robert Kivumbi alias Mighty Family, Samson Ssekiranda alias Giant, Sharifa Najja alias Don Sharifa, Brian Ssemanda alias Director Museveni Must Go, Robert Katumba, Faisol Kigongo alias Ras Fazo, Musa Mulimira, Sam Mutumba alias Papa Sam, Richard Kalema alias Ricardo, Alex Karamagi alias Doggy City, Daniel Onywerot, Hussein Mukasa alias OShea, John Bosco Sunday alias JB, Isma Muganga alias Jaja Isma, Fahad Tamale and Bashir Murusha.

Many of their families are now struggling with no food, no rent, no money for school fees, and no money for medication. This economic and psychological consequence of family benefactors being held for four months could be the reason behind the distraught of those who did not take in Bobi Wine’s words of comfort.

Birabwa Goretti, a mother of three whose husband Murusha Bashir is among those still in detention says she is a housewife. Her husband was the sole breadwinner of the family, and since his detention, they have not paid rent. “Every week, I keep pleading with the landlord that he is about to be released,” Biraba said in an interview.   

Birabwa said she had hoped that the General Court Martial would start releasing detainees when they last appeared in court in March. “As of now, we don’t know what is happening to them, we don’t know when they will be brought back to the court and when they will be released,” she says.   

Birabwa has not been to Kitalya to visit her husband because of rigorous requirements such as a coronavirus testing certificate which she can’t afford. She says she last saw the husband on TV when he appeared in court.

Musisi Annet of Kikoni Makerere, whose son Nyanzi William is also among the detained persons says the government is disheartening parents. In her late 50s’, she says her son was buying her medicine for hypertension and pleads with the state to grant them bail.

Lawyers representing the group have applied for bail four times but haven’t succeeded. Their lawyers in March filed a case in the High Court challenging the legality and constitutionality of being tried in the General Court Martial but it was dismissed. The army lawyers have argued that if released, the detainees are likely to cause violence. 

The lawyers have filed another bail application and its hearing is scheduled for May 10, 2021, two days before the swearing-in ceremony of the President-elect. And security forces are already issuing warnings to NUP supporters who are allegedly threatening to disrupt the ceremony. Given the political situation, it’s unlikely that the application will be granted.

Anthony Wameli, one of the NUP lawyers says it’s sad that after 120 days, these NUP supporters have not been granted bail or tried. “It’s a big test for our justice system,” he said in an interview.   

Wameli admits that the chances of being granted bail on May 10, are very slim. “These are political prisoners and the people holding them politically captive are still in power,” he says, but hastens to add that they can’t give up fighting for bail even when chances are slim.  

Another parent of a detainee, who spoke in confidence says when her son got close with Bobi Wine, she was ‘viewed with suspicion because she was previously an NRM supporter.  As the presidential election day drew close, NRM people in the area approached her with an offer to be Museveni’s agent at the polling station in her community.

“I did not hesitate. I agreed and became Museveni’s agent, and I was there for the whole day. They paid me at the end,” she said. But Museveni lost to Bobi Wine at this polling station.  

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