Kampala, Uganda | URN | On December 30th, 2020, Bony Obicho, 25, a mechanic who was working on National Unity Platform (NUP’s) Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine damaged campaign cars was among the more than 100 campaigners who landed at Kalangala Island where the pop-star-turned-politician had gone to campaign.
A father of two children, Mr Obicho recounts an agonizing tale of how he was arrested and tortured for repairing cars on Bobi Wine’s campaign trail.
Mr Obicho says it seems soldiers had observed him fixing the cars that had been damaged on the campaign trail from Jinja, Mbale and Masaka. When they arrested the group, he says he was singled out and thrown into a double cabin car, handcuffed and beaten by men dressed in black while driving him to Kalangala Police Station. The double cabin arrived at the police station at around 6:00 pm.
At about midnight, Mr Obicho says he was later transferred to Kasajagirwa army barracks, Masaka where he was first taken to a sickbay for treatment. He says he was given pain killers.
Then the beating resumed.
This time round, Mr Obicho says he was being beaten by soldiers. At a certain point, he says six soldiers who were beating him tied a white nylon rope around his neck and started pulling it from either side, asking him to reveal Plan B of Kyagulanyi. They were also asking why he works on every car shot or damaged during the campaigns.
“They kept asking where I had been trained,” Mr Obicho says, adding that the soldiers were suspecting that Bobi Wine might have taken me to countries like Japan, Israel or German for car mechanics training’s.
Mr Obicho says he has been repairing cars for seven years, working with his father who has a garage along Binaisa road, adjacent to Mulago Hospital. His clients included Mike Wine and Dan Magic, Bobi Wine’s close associates. That is how he got connected to NUP.
Mr Obicho says he observed that the campaign team lacked a mechanic which he offered free of charge and his services were accepted.
“I joined Bob Wine’s campaign trail with a mindset of helping our country change from the ruling government,” he said.
On December 31st, 2020, Mr Obicho says soldiers brought photographs of him working on the damaged cars. And when they confirmed his face, he was immediately undressed, asked to bend and face the wall and beaten once again.
On asking why he was beaten, soldiers reportedly responded that, “Kyagulanyi cannot take over power, you are going to die.”
On the night of January 1st 2021, he says he was made to sleep naked on a cold cement floor the entire night, given back his clothes in the morning, and taken to another room where he found colleagues arrested from Kalangala.
The team appeared in Masaka Magistrate’s Court where they were charged, remanded over assault of police officers and negligent acts likely to spread COVID-19.
But Mr Obicho wonders why they were facing COVID-19 related charges yet in detention centers, about 200 people would be crowded in a single room, sleeping body to body.
When they were remanded to Kitalya security prison, the mechanic Mr Obicho says his health condition worsened and the soldiers called for doctors in Luzira who brought a mobile scan and found that a large portion of Obicho’s intestines were damaged. He showed this publication scan images that he received.
According to Mr Obicho, the sickbay within Kitalya didn’t have drugs and he had to endure pain for days that followed.
He was among the 13 NUP supporters granted bail on February 8th, 2021. After release, he was taken to Mulago and later transferred to Lubaga Hospital.
“When I reached Mulago, doctors refused me to eat any food with starch but only fruits like apples and drinks like Lucozade on a daily basis,” said the mechanic.
Mr Obicho says his medical bills are being footed by NUP secretariat.
“I can hardly sit or stand. I can’t even work because doctors told me to wait until I recover so as to resume,” he said.
Rony Samanya, a brother to Mr Obicho says it is very disturbing and traumatizing to see a young hardworking man who was looking after his wife, kids and parents now jobless and helpless suffering because of torture by the national army.
“We didn’t know that he had been arrested until his wife told us and now we have to stand in the gap which is costly as well,” he said.