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A whole bunch of individuals in Uganda are nonetheless lacking after being detained following raids on their houses or within the aftermath of election marketing campaign rallies. The BBC’s Endurance Atuhaire has been speaking to a few of these affected.
It was within the early hours of the morning when greater than a dozen folks – armed, uniformed and masked – descended on the village of Kisamula, 150km (95 miles) south-west of the capital, Kampala. After driving home to accommodate, they made off with 18 younger males, mentioned to largely be opposition supporters.
Two months after the raid, which occurred within the run-up to January’s bitterly contested normal election, not a kind of taken has returned.
Warning: This story comprises graphic testimony which can be upsetting
Ronald Muwonge is among the many lacking.
He was at home with his wife, Teddy Naluswata, when someone started banging on their door at 03:00.
“They known as Muwonge to both open up or they’d break it down,” Ms Naluswata recalls.
“They mentioned they had been police. I rushed to the door, informed him to dress. The door flung open, and one of many males pushed a gun in my ribs and informed me to get out of the way in which.
“They dragged Muwonge out, and threw him down in the grass, beating him.”
The boys then searched the home, methodically.
“There were maybe about 15 of them, dressed in black police uniform, with masks and berets.
“One discovered my husband’s pockets. There was about 70,000 shillings ($20; £14) in there. I begged him: ‘Please, you’ve got taken my husband, go away the cash for me and my youngsters,'” says the mother who is expecting her third child.
“He emptied the pockets. I cried to them repeatedly: ‘Are you able to at the least inform me the place you are taking him?'”
They did not reply.
‘Echoes of Idi Amin’
It was only after sunrise that Ms Naluswata learnt the full scale of what had befallen the village – when she met her neighbours with similar stories at the police station.
For some this has echoes of Idi Amin’s rule in the 1970s, when thousands of people were killed or disappeared, some dragged away in broad daylight, never to be heard from again.
John Kiwanuka, the nephew of 65-year-old Margaret Nalinnya, was also taken in the raid on Kisamula.
The house was a mess when she went to see what had happened.
“After I noticed the pool of blood on his bed room flooring, there was one thought in my thoughts: ‘My baby is useless.’ I sat on the veranda, unable to maneuver,” Ms Nalinnya says, overcome by violent sobs, her body shaking.
Villagers told the BBC that Mr Kiwanuka was shot in both legs before he was bundled into a van.
Two months on, his home still lies desolate.
The broken metal front door, which is missing its glass panels, and a gaping hole in the ceiling show the level of force used.
Mr Kiwanuka paid for his aunt’s food and provided money for her hypertension medication. Ms Nalinnya’s health has deteriorated since he was taken away.
An official complaint filed by lawyers to Masaka regional police on behalf of Mr Kiwanuka’s mother says that the 18 who were taken were shoved into two mini-buses.
Taken by ‘drones’
It is believed that across the country, hundreds of opposition activists and campaigners were picked up in similar fashion.
Many reports have emerged about a certain type of mini-bus, with tinted windows and untraceable licence plates, preferred by the armed personnel who carry out these arrests, that the vehicle has come to be known locally as a “drone”.
In November, two months earlier than the Kisamula raid, because the election marketing campaign was heating up, Julius Kiberu had simply hopped off a commuter taxi in Kisowera east of Kampala, when he heard gunshots ring out.
Individuals scattered in each route. He ducked and ran, hoping to cover behind the outlets.
Two armed males in plainclothes jumped out of a “drone” and grabbed him by the waist of his trousers.
“One of them knocked me on the head with a baton. I blacked out.
“After I got here to, I used to be on the ground of the ‘drone’, one arm handcuffed to a seat, blood flowing into my eyes. Each time I attempted to boost my head, somebody stamped it down,” the 35-year-old electrician says, instinctively touching the scar.
Hours later, Mr Kiberu says that he, and the others who had been picked up in the same way, arrived at a compound.
Hoods were thrown over their heads before they were dragged into a pitch-black room, he adds.
The monotonous routine of being questioned would be broken up with beatings.
“They requested me repeatedly: ‘The place is the gun? Are you rebels? Did you tear down the president’s marketing campaign posters?’
“I think sometimes I was beaten with a stick, other times with an electric wire. Sometimes, they would make us lie down in a line, and walk on our backs with heavy boots. I prayed to God.”
Left in a forest
Mr Kiberu says the beatings and being held in a single place for hours have left his left leg numb and he now walks with a limp.
He nonetheless has no thought who was holding him or by which a part of the nation he was detained.
In February, after greater than 11 weeks of detention and having been transferred to a few totally different places, he was dumped in the midst of the evening in a eucalyptus forest over 100km from his residence.
“I was pushed from the van, my head still covered, my hands tied. The soldier told me to lie face down, and not move. He took off the hood and just left.”
After managing to wriggle his palms free, he discovered a police publish alongside a mud highway, and requested for assist.
His eyes at the moment are bloodshot and his sight nonetheless poor after spending weeks in darkness.
“Every time I close my eyes to sleep, it all comes back,” Mr Kiberu says, trying round nervously as if anticipating somebody, or one thing, to all of the sudden seem.
Extra on Uganda’s election:
The election noticed singer-turned-politician Bobi Wine mount a powerful problem to President Yoweri Museveni, who finally received a sixth time period.
All through the marketing campaign, safety forces carried out mass arrests as they broke up opposition rallies whereas imposing coronavirus pandemic restrictions on the gathering of crowds.
The NGO Authorized Help Service Suppliers Community documented 511 instances of “arbitrary arrests and unlawful detention” throughout the nation between October 2020 and January this yr.
“Sixty-five (13%) were released from police cells without being charged as some had been arbitrarily arrested and detained for more than 48 hours,” its report reads partially. Based on Ugandan regulation, suspects have to be produced in courtroom inside 48 hours of their arrest.
On 31 December, within the Lake Victoria Island district of Kalangala, 126 folks had been arrested at a Bobi Wine marketing campaign rally.
They had been later granted bail by a Justice of the Peace’s courtroom, just for 49 of them to be re-arrested and charged with possession of 4 rounds of ammunition earlier than the army courtroom.
Regardless of their plight, their family and friends are comforted by the truth that they’re in a delegated jail.
The whereabouts of a whole bunch others arrested below related circumstances stay unknown.
Bobi Wine’s get together, the Nationwide Unity Platform, has printed an inventory of 423 of its supporters who it says are lacking – largely from the Central Area, which incorporates the village of Kisamula, and the place the get together received a number of parliamentary seats.
Quite a few them, the get together says, had been polling brokers in possession of proof of vote-rigging.
When questions had been requested, safety officers at totally different ranges initially prevented answering or appeared to disclaim that there was a difficulty.
However on 4 February Inside Affairs Minister Gen Jeje Odongo admitted to parliament that there had been an “overzealousness on the part of the soldiers”.
President Museveni later ordered the safety companies to supply an inventory of these in detention, whereas additionally dismissing claims that Ugandans had been being arbitrarily kidnapped, saying that those that had been arrested had been criminals and terrorists.
Final week Gen Odongo lastly offered an inventory of 176 names, with particulars of when and the place they had been arrested, the fees towards them and the place they had been being held.
Some had been held for allegedly taking part in protests, others for possession of army materials and others for holding conferences to plan post-election violence.
A number of the lacking return
The biggest quantity, the record reveals, are below army detention and the minister mentioned investigations had been persevering with to seek out if there are any others.
Over current weeks, just a few detainees have resurfaced, some dumped in bushes close to their villages, barely hanging on to life. Some are in intensive care in hospitals, whereas others are nursing grotesque accidents.
One former detainee informed the BBC that his testicles had been tightly tied with ropes for hours, and at different instances held towards flames.
Native media have printed a collection of testimonies, by which former detainees say they had been electrocuted or compelled to eat rotten meals.
However not one of the 18 lacking from Kisamula have reappeared.
The two sons of Francis Luganzi, a 45-year-old carpenter, were also among the 18.
He has given up hope of ever seeing them alive again.
“I doubt that they survived these beatings,” he says, holding his head in his hands.
“I’ve cried all day and all evening for weeks. If our youngsters are useless, the federal government ought to simply give us the our bodies and we bury them.
“If the government doesn’t want democratic politics, why don’t they just abolish it?
“Each Ugandan has a proper to help whoever they need. It’s not against the law.”