Big Story

NUP Supporter Narrates Ordeal of Torture in Military Cells

BIG STORY: The story of Mr Cyrus Sambwa Kasato is no different from the recent torture on Ugandans by security operatives and UPDF Militia. The National Unity Platform Supporter below narrates the untold torture he went through after being arrested by the Military.

Cyrus Kasato Narrates

On February 8, at around half-past-midday, we were in a meeting at Womeya School in Kyebando.

The parish chief had convened [the meeting for] all parish chairpersons to listen to guidance from [officials of a] certain non-governmental organisation (NGO) on how to handle marriage and family-related issues.

While we were still in the meeting, a double-cabin pick-up entered the school compound and one occupant dressed in civilian clothes came out and entered the room. The man said: ‘Kasato, first come out; I need to talk to you’.

I went with him and as we were standing outside, I saw two other people dressed in Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) uniforms with guns. I asked [the man who had called me out] what he wanted.

He slapped me and with the help of the other officers, I was arrested and dragged into their vehicle. When I entered their vehicle, they hand-cuffed and blindfolded me with a black piece of cloth.

Then they started beating me while asking me questions [about allegations of collecting evidence for Mr Kyagulanyi during the January 14 elections].

What Happened?

I told them that it was true that I collected the evidence, but I had already submitted it to [Bobi Wine’s] National Unity Platform (NUP) party headquarters in Kamwokya [a Kampala suburb]. The evidence was for election results and we wanted to use it to challenge Museveni’s victory in the 2021 polls.

They asked me about NUP’s next plan. I told them that I am the chairman of the constituency and at my level the NUP National Executive Committee (NEC) has never given us the next plan after general elections and I referred them to NEC.

While we were moving, they started beating me while handcuffed and blindfolded. They stopped somewhere and they shifted me from the double-cabin pick-up to another vehicle [I suspected to be a drone] and they told me to lie down. They (soldiers) started beating me with heavy sticks while asking me the same questions they had asked me before.

They first detained me at Special Investigations Directorate or SID (in Kireka, Wakiso District) where I spent only three hours.

While I was in their custody, one officer came and asked me why I don’t support Museveni. I replied: Why don’t you also support Bobi Wine? From there they started beating me seriously and one officer came and beat me on one side of my cheek and [my ear on the side] stopped hearing completely.

Then another officer came into the cells and asked, in Kiswahili, the cell guard: ‘Who is this person’? They told him that he was arrested from Kyebando. He told them that ‘this is not our person’ and he ordered them to take me where I belong.

Again, they put me in a vehicle and drove me to Mbuya while handcuffed and blindfolded.

In Mbuya, I realised I was at the headquarters of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI). I was taken before an army officer to get my particulars and later took me to the cells where I found other suspects.

While in the cells, a group of soldiers came and asked whether there was a new person in the cell and suspects responded ‘yes we have and he is here’. The soldiers started beating me.

In the night, two other people told them that I had refused to give them information that they wanted.

On the same night, their boss came and ordered them to suspend me in the air. They tied me up so that my feet could not touch the ground.

After a while, another soldier came and asked the cell guard why I was tied up like that? They told him that those were the orders given to them. The officer then ordered them to remove me from where I was tied. Then he ordered them to take me to the Go-down where suspects were sleeping.

When I reached the Go-down, I found several young boys and, fortunately some of them were boys from Wakiso who knew me.

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One of them was a boy who contested for the LC2 seat in Kyengera on the NUP ticket. He had stayed there for a long time and was actually on the committee of those that run the cell. He gave me a mat and a bedsheet then I slept because I was almost dying.

In the morning, the officer who [the previous evening] instructed that they remove me from the hanging point came back and called me. He told me that now ‘I am going to take you back to where I found you because I was helping you and I do not want the bosses to know about it’.

He handcuffed me, blindfolded me and put me back on my hanging point.

In the morning, at around 7.30am, they called me to make a statement and they asked me the same questions. After recording the statement, they told me to sign it which I did. He then said he is taking it to his bosses.

After one hour, he came back and said ‘we are taking you to court because you have refused to tell us what we wanted’.

At around 11.30am, I with eight others were taken to Unit Disciplinary Court at Mbuya where I was told that on November 18, 2020, while in areas of Wakiso, I was seen putting on military-related clothes yet UPDF has monopoly over it. I denied the offence.

The court remanded me to Makindye Military Barracks prison from February 9 – 17, 2021.

At Makindye barracks, I was taken to the military hospital because I was not in a good shape before entering the cell.

I spent two days in the hospital while on serious medication.

On February 17, the officers who are in-charge of taking suspects to court told us that they were taking us to Bombo Military Court.

They handcuffed, blindfolded us but as we were moving, one of us spotted Lubugi wetland and that was when we knew that we were going to Nansana and were probably being taken to UPDF 1st Division headquarters court in Kakiri, Wakiso District.

When we reached Kakiri, I asked the officer to allow me make telephone calls to my people so that they could come and stand as surety for me.

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I called the Wakiso District chairman (Matia Lwanga Bwanika) and told him to mobilise people and to come UPDF 1st Division court in Kakiri.

When we entered court, they read me the same charges they had read to me at the Unit Disciplinary Court in Mbuya.

My lawyers [sent by NUP] asked the court to grant me court bail on court conditions and I was bailed out and even up to now I am still reporting on court bail.”

More Ugandans Disappearing

Over the past few months, hordes of Ugandans, especially the youth, have been rounded up by unidentified people who relatives of the victims suspect to be security operatives.

Many of those who have been picked up have not been in contact with their loved ones since. It has taken months for some, and the crackdown seems to continue.

The different accounts this publication has gathered about many of those arrests, in fact almost all show that they are supporters of the National Unity Platform (NUP) party and their loved ones suspect that the arrests are politically motivated.

NUP party and its leader, Mr Kyagulanyi, have on many occasions cried out about what they say is the continued harassment and illegal detention of their supporters and members.

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