A wave of impunity and deliberately crafted lies has infected the campaign around human rights in Uganda. The racket behind this wave is led by a group of politicians well insulated by local and foreign backers.
For some time now, I have taken keen interest in allegations of torture and brutality as leveled by certain individuals and organisations mostly against the security agencies. My interest is not out of cynicism but out of a genuine desire to profoundly understand the human rights “economy” of Uganda, the general response to President Yoweri Museveni’s guidance as regards handling of suspects by security agencies and, in whichever way possible, to help any victims in question to find justice.
Unfortunately, what I have found our so far is disappointing. “Victims” who claim to need help, and their backers, are not helping the cause of hearing their ordeal and finding remedies for them. A good number of them are not honest while others are not cooperative. The majority prefers social media and political avenues to settle scores, and that is complicating attempts to rid Uganda of real acts of torture and brutality of any kind. In my assessment so far, I see that there is no interest in ridding us of the scourge.
First of all, whereas the entire world is told that there is full scale abuse of human rights in Uganda, there are hardly cases reported to the authorities chief of which is Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC). We only hear and see names on social media and in political forums without anyone ascertaining the identities of “victims” and circumstances under which they may have met their fate. It’s not every person who goes missing that the state is responsible for their disappearance. It’s not everybody who is tortured or who has body injuries that it is the state responsible.
Recently, some politicians from Uganda were in Nairobi, Kenya, at a human rights activity where they paraded alleged victims of state torture. Looking at the victims was an emotional moment as their injuries were rather unsightly.
Unfortunately, while these victims were available for parading in a foreign capital, they are undocumented here as far as my research can confirm, and this poses a great challenge to the cause of pursuing justice for them. How sure are we that they are from Uganda and what are the circumstances behind their injuries?
I was pushed to study their case more closely when I established that one of the “victims of torture” turned out to be an accident victim who is well known locally. That is none other than Moses Simbwa.
Simbwa is a former resident of Gabula Rd LC where he served as secretary for environment in Jinja City, Southern Division. At the Nairobi event, he displayed serious marks of injuries on his legs, claiming he was tortured. However, information available indicates that Simbwa operated boda boda services on a TVS motorbike obtained from Yuvraj TVS company showroom on Lubas road on loan. It’s on that motorbike that he got seriously injured in an accident in July 2021 at Bukeeka along Kayunga-Njeru Road as he returned from a burial in Kangulumira. While riding and carrying a friend, he collided with a Subaru car which was overtaking a sugarcane truck. The accident left grave injuries on him, with broken legs.
He was hospitalised at Jinja Main Hospital and treated for three months in the referral hospital’s Ward 2. Upon discharge, he got further treatment from Kumi hospital, according to his associates where they fixed a metallic piece in his leg to enable him to walk. So, when people who knew this background saw Simbwa paraded in Nairobi as a victim of torture, they were totally shocked and disappointed. I am told his bills in hospital were taken care of by FDC leaders. They know his story very well and I believe they were equally surprised to see him paraded in Nairobi, although I don’t know why they didn’t protest the scam in Nairobi where they were also present.
Some of his acquaintances felt sympathy for him because they think he agreed to be paraded for monetary benefit.
And there is partly the problem we have at hand; human rights advocacy is now a business but not a pursuit of business. As a result, we are likely to see more fake victims and ghost names on social media.
This is very wrong! Nobody should use the plight of others for monetary benefit because this disadvantages the genuine victims that may exist and turns the human rights agenda into something to play with. For the record, Government has a programme to compensate victims of torture and would readily receive and process such claims for remedial action.
It has also come to my knowledge that the Nairobi event was not hosted by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), the statutory organ of the Kenyan Government which is the equivalent of UHRC, but it was hosted by an NGO known as Kenya Human Rights Commission, a name that usually cause confusion and can be mistaken for the official organ. This is another ploy to find justification and to mislead the gullible. I will soon have information on other “victims” for consideration.
The motive is to malign the Uganda Government in the eyes of the world as part of a regime change agenda. The truth is that Uganda’s human rights record is at its best. In Uganda today, unlike before, opposition is fully represented at all levels and earns NRM Govt salaries and benefits. People freely attack and boldly malice Government without fear of reprisal. Neither are they executed as it was in the 1970s and 1980s simply for exercising their rights.
Another problem noted is that some people exercise defiance unnecessarily and end up in confrontations with security organs and other people for nothing. There is no law-abiding citizen who is arrested for nothing. Whenever someone is arrested, there is no smoke without fire. Others choose to defy lawful summons and end up being picked up using “drones”, and this, too, is termed as kidnap. Lawful arrest is carried out globally for the good of the general population. I urge all Ugandans to be law-abiding and cooperate with security organs whenever necessary for the well-being of society at large.
I also urge citizens to avoid being used for the interests of others and to report any acts of torture with the relevant authorities, especially UHRC.
The author is the Deputy Presidential Press Secretary
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