Uganda: Amnesty International deplores police brutality against the opposition

Mbabazi's supporters running from police teargas

Mbabazi’s supporters running from police teargas

Amnesty International has castigated Uganda police repressive tendencies against political opposition and their supporters and consequently denying Ugandans information and choice ahead of February 18 presidential election.

In its report titled  “We come in and disperse them”: Violations of the right to freedom of assembly by the Ugandan police,” the rights watchdog Amnesty International details how the police force in Uganda has used excessive force again main opposition leaders, detained and tortured their staff and harassed, and used tear gas on their supporters.

The  scathing report released in the Ugandan capital Kampala this week indicts the Uganda Police for stifling dissent and denying Ugandans robust debate on issues in the run up to the forthcoming general election.

“All Ugandans must be free to attend political rallies and engage with candidates, regardless of their political affiliations,” Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes said upon the report’s publication

Mr. Wanyesiki appeals to the Ugandan government to expeditiously end torturing and harassing opponent and swiftly and meticulously probe police brutality cases and bring perpetrators to justice.

“The Ugandan authorities must put an immediate end to the harassment and torture of political opponents and urgently, thoroughly and transparently investigate the use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrators. Anyone found responsible for these violations must be brought to justice,” he said.

Amnesty report highlights  this July’s arrest and detention  of presidential candidates Amama Mbabazi of The Democratic Alliance (TDA) and Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) in a systematic effort to stop them from campaigning. The police dubbed the duo’s arrest and detention “preventive arrests.”

The rights group’s report further reveals one Vincent Kaggwa, the spokesman of TDA Amama Mbabazi’s TDA  was arrested and “held incommunicado for four days” and that he was inhumanely tortured in his secretive detention and throughout the course of his ordeal, his family was kept in the dark.

“He (Kagwa) said police had ordered him to undress and sprayed him with high-pressure cold water from a hose pipe directed at his lower abdomen, causing him intense pain,” Amnesty International says.

As candidates traverse Uganda wooing voters ahead of February’s highly anticipated election in which incumbent President Yoweri Museveni is running for the fifth tern in office, AI is calling on the authorities in Kampala to set and publish guidelines (including use of teargas on civilians) of policing political assembly  in Uganda and that those guidelines must conform to international standards.

The East African nation’s police force grabbed international headlines this October when video footages of police officers man-handling and undressing female advisors and supporters to FDC candidate Kizza Besigye as the candidate was traveling to Rukungiri for a campaign rally. At the time fellow candidate Mbabazi condemned the incident.