Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | The Speaker of Parliament Anita Among has proposed a meeting with President Yoweri Museveni over fresh demands by Opposition legislators regarding the forced disappearance of citizens and human rights violations.
The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LoP), Mathias Mpuuga Nsamba, presented four key demands to the government.
These demands include the unconditional release of political prisoners, the establishment of a commission of inquiry into the disappearance of 18 National Unity Platform (NUP) party supporters missing since 2021, the formation of a parliamentary select committee to investigate cases of rape and defilement, and addressing the transfer of individuals facing unlawful trials before the Court Martial.
Mpuuga also emphasized the continuous detention of political prisoners without proper conclusion of trials and the defiance of a court directive to transfer their files to civil court. The opposition leader raised concerns about the disregard for legal processes and called upon the Ministry of Justice to address the matter.
“There are dozens of political prisoners languishing in custody on charges that the state has deliberately failed to conclude due to inadequate evidence. On 15th December 2022, Rt Hon. Speaker, Court ruled that all those persons not subjected to military law currently being tried before any military court are ordered that their files be transferred to the Civil Court. This directive has however been disregarded to date with political prisoners continuously facing an endless trial. We call on the ministry of Justice why the general court is contemptuous,” said Mpuuga.
The LoP made the demands in a rejoinder to an earlier statement by Gen David Muhoozi, Minister of State for Internal Affairs saying that most of the alleged missing persons have never been reported to the police thus complicating investigations.
“The law clearly stipulates that prisoners should spend at least 180 days on remand an equivalent of six months but unfortunately majority of inmates including NUP supporters in the court martial have spent more than that time. I will symbolically cite Abdu Matovu who was abducted from his workplace in December 2020. His mother Nakabuye Haddijah and father Mwalimu Karid Bukenya resident of Sembabule district revealed that their son has been rotting in Kitalya prison since 2020,” added Mpuuga.
Gen. Muhoozi cited inconsistencies in the numbers and testimonies in the various claims of reported disappeared persons and presented variously to the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC), the parliamentary committee on human rights, and the latest statement by the LoP. He explained that the alleged missing persons’ next of kin have declined to give statements to police, making it difficult for the government to conclude investigations.
In response to the demands by the opposition, the Deputy Attorney General Jackson Kafuuzi committed to convening a meeting with top Judiciary leaders, including Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo and the Director of Public Prosecutions, to review cases that have exceeded the 48-hour constitutional requirement for remand.
In an annual report, the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) closed 18 files related to missing NUP party supporters due to the inability to trace them.
Speaker Among proposed engaging the president on the prolonged detention of suspects, deferring a decision on the opposition demands until after a meeting with the UHRC chairperson scheduled for next week. The meeting will include her deputy Thomas Tayebwa and opposition leader Mpuuga, aiming to find a resolution to the ongoing impasse.