No evidence to prove Bobi Wine, Zaake were tortured, PM Rugunda tells Parliament
Prime Minister Rugunda: 'It was wise for SFC come in quickly and handle the situation. Hadn’t SFC acted swiftly, Uganda would have had more problems. I commend our security organs that contained the situation and prevented chaos that would come from the problems. Because of the fact that there is no complete evidence, I personally propose that Parliament rejects this report.'
PARLIAMENT | There is no evidence to prove that Kyaddondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi and his Mityana Municipality counterpart Francis Zaake were tortured, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda has said.
The premier, who was on Wednesday receiving a parliamentary ad hoc committee report on allegations of torture of Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, Zaake and their colleagues and supporters in Arua, said it was riddled with falsehoods, with “no evidence to prove the allegations.”
Incidentally, Dr Rugunda, who asked Parliament to roundly reject the report, had started off on a jovial note, commending the committee for having the report tabled “after the temperature and emotions” had cooled down.
And then he took a 90-degree turn of hostility, accusing the committee of writing the report in the heat of occurrences that were taking place, saying “that is why the ad hoc report has a lot of biases.”
“Some of them unsubstantiated and, as a result, that pierces holes in that important report. When discussing this report, these shortcomings should be taken into account,” Rugunda argued.
He said that although Parliament formed the ad hoc committee, the team turned out to be divided as the members never converged, which he said explains why the report had to be read by Jovah Kamateeka, after the committee chairperson, Doreen Amule abandoned the ship.
Amule did not endorse the report she chaired. She also did not write any known minority report as is the case whenever a committee member disagrees with others in a majority report.
The ad hoc committee was set up on August 15 to ascertain the condition of the MPs and other people with whom they were arrested on the eve of the by-election in Arua Municipality.
The committee comprised Doreen (Woman MP Amolatar), Kamateeka (Woman MP Mitooma District), Medard Lubega Sseggona (Busiro East), Andrew Baryayanga Aja (Kabale Municipality), Bernard Atiku (Ayivu County) and Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West).
Describing the torture of Bobi Wine, the report said both his legs and hands were chained, he was later wrapped in a blanket and driven off to an unknown location.
“His testicles were squeezed so hard that at the time the committee visited him at Makindye Military Barracks, he informed them that one of his testicles had been smashed,” the report reads in part.
The description by the committee was on Tuesday captured by Bobi Wine in an epic statement about his arrest and torture, but the Special Forces Command that is accused of meting out the torture denies accusations of torture.
On Wednesday, Matooke Republic, a news website, quoting Defence spokesperson Brig Richard Karemire as saying: “If what Bobi Wine alleges in the statement is true, our investigations will unearth it and make no mistake, every officer will be individually accountable.”
Bobi Wine has since been flown to the US for specialised treatment while Zaake, who was initially in a coma at Rubaga Hospital, was also eventually allowed to fly to India for treatment.
Responding for government in Parliament, Rugunda said the report has significant weaknesses, wondering why the committee didn’t visit the initial site of the problem (Arua) and trace the story as it evolved to eventually come up with a conclusion after all actors had been considered.
“There is a big gap. I have not seen a report of committee talking to President Museveni who was the first victim to be pelted with stone. Without the critical witnesses being brought on board, this doesn’t give us a good view,” Rugunda said.
Strangely, Museveni has cynically asked what Parliament would do if it summoned his soldiers and they refused to honour the summonses, a statement which amounts to telling off MPs from ever dreaming of summoning his personal guards to answer for human rights violations such as was in Arua, says Crime24‘s Ritah Mugoya at Parliament.
“That PM Rugunda would expect such the president who has mocked Parliament for trying to investigate allegations against his guards, the president who is yet to reply to the Speaker of Parliament’s letter seeking explanations about the torture allegations, is a bit weird,” she said.
“How was Museveni going to sit down to be interviewed by MPs when he has not even bothered to respond to a letter from their boss in Parliament?”
In its report, the ad hoc committee revealed that it did not find any evidence that the situation in Arua was beyond the ability and capacity of the Uganda Police Force and therefore found the recourse to brute force by the military against civilians not only disproportionate but also inhumane and demanded to have the perpetrators called upon Government.
Again, Rugunda shot down this argument, saying any security organ is at liberty to enforce so that security challenge can be effectively handled. He said it was wise for the general security infrastructure to come in quickly and handle the situation, noting that hadn’t SFC acted swiftly, “Uganda would have had more problems.”
“I commend our security organs that contained the situation and prevented chaos that would come from the problems. Because of the fact that there is no complete evidence, I personally propose that Parliament rejects this report,” he said.
Rugunda’s remarks angered Leader of Opposition Betty Aol, who fired back saying: “For the Prime Minister to say that let the report be rejected, I really pity you. What a shame! I am surprised the chairperson didn’t sign the report, if she didn’t agree, she should have come up with a minority report as an individual.”