Mityana Municipality MP Francis Zaake has progressively been recovering from the injuries he sustained during his arrest and detention on April 19, 2020 for reportedly distributing relief food items to his constituents contrary to President Yoweri Museveni’s order stopping all politicians from doing so.
While in detention at the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in Kireka, MP Zaake’s colleague and Kyadondo East legislator Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, claimed his People Power pressure group ally had undergone “gruesome torture by security operatives” and that “chemicals were sprayed in his eyes.”
Zaake himself issued a detailed account of how he says he was tortured. After days of investigations, Internal Affairs Minister Mario Obiga Kania told Parliament that Zaake had sustained injuries during his arrest because he had tried to resist apprehension. Minister Kania also claimed that Zaake had inflicted himself with injuries.
“It is probable that Hon. Zaake could have inflicted himself. According the statement of the car commander, Hon. Zaake kept on knocking himself on the metals of the pick-up. It is probable that these injuries were as a result of the knocking,” said Kania in a statement on Zaake’s alleged torture.
MPs received the report with suspicion, and People Power pressure group leaders rejected the government narrative. The group’s leader Bobi Wine said: “In 2018 when a Minister said I had guns, I was in military custody and didn’t see his shameless face. Today, I watched in disbelief as a Minister told Parliament Hon Zaake tortured himself and caused his own wounds by knocking himself on metals and pricking himself with sharp objects!”
Bobi’s statements were re-echoed by the People Power Spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi who said Kania’s report “reminds me of how the state planted guns in Hon Kyagulanyi’s hotel room in Arua in 2018. Shame!”
Opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Spokesperson and Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda said only mad people could believe Kania’s statement.
“Remember the last time Zaake was been beaten in Arua, they threw him at a hospital and said he had run away from police cells and taken himself to Rubaga Hospital. Even now, it will take someone insane to believe what Obiga Kania said. I saw the way Hon. Zaake was arrested; he was handcuffed. How could he injure himself in the police car? This government will say anything,” noted Ssemujju on Capital Gang talk show.
To further boost their narrative, the Internal Affairs Ministry added a political tone to the whole torture saga. Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga said Zaake was making claims of torture because he wanted political sympathy and was also aiming at attracting donor funds. Enanga added that it was not the first time the youthful MP was despising lawful orders by resisting arrest.
“The public should know that the Hon Francis Zaake, has a history of violent conduct witnessed on a couple of occasions in Parliament and during the Arua fracas. He has much disrespect for security personnel, last year he was arrested after he out rightly breached the conditions of his police bond,” Zaake told reporters on May 08.
“And he has previously feigned sickness as a tool to politicize and snub the legal procedures in place, for political sympathy and to mobilize their donors.”
Government and ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) spin masters have been trying to justify Enanga’s claim that Zaake could have tortured himself. Some claim that the MP pretends to be in so much pain when he sees cameras, then retreats to mild or even normal conditions when reporters have left. To them, Zaake is simply an actor in a play, and his purpose is to seek sympathy and political capital. One of those who hold such a view is Sembabule District NRM youth leader David Kabanda.
“Allow me re-echo this, Zaake was not tortured. Whatever we see is just meant to attract sympathy from Donors and to keep themselves relevant. Actually, let me re assure you, even if one of them kills himself in order to attract sympathy, President Museven will win the 2021 elections with 80 per cent,” claimed Kabanda.
While Zaake might have genuine concerns, pro-government and pro-NRM commentators will always claim he is lying about being tortured because reports about his 2018 Arua ordeal and those of Bobi Wine were largely alarming and seemed to have been blown out of proportion. From claims that their balls had been squeezed and they will never have children or enjoy sex again, to reports that their kidneys had been damaged and their conditions would need experts from abroad to fix, Bobi and Zaake seem to have put themselves in a corner.
But politically speaking, any politician wouldn’t be blamed for using whatever means available to attract sympathy or donor support; after all, without claims of torture, Bobi Wine would not have earned so much clout like he garnered on the international stage after the 2018 Arua incident. But what is unforgivable is being caught pretending to be in pain or telling lies that one has been tortured. If any politician is lying about torture, they should not be caught telling this lie. For now, it seems that only court will decide whether Zaake was tortured or if he lied; and if Kania told the nation a lie. The MP has already sued Attorney General Wiliam Byaruhanga and individual police officers for torture.
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