BIG STORY: The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) on Thursday confirmed the arrest of Dr Lawrence Muganga, the Vice Chancellor of Victoria University, one of Uganda’s leading private higher institutions of learning.
Hours later on Thursday, the UPDF Spokesperson Brig Flavia Byekwaso refuted online reports that Dr. Muganga was kidnapped, disregarding the reports as false, and said the academic had been arrested by the armed forces in connection with espionage and illegal stay in Uganda.
“Social media reports that Vice-Chancellor Victoria University Dr. Lawrence Muganga was kidnapped are false. He was arrested by joint Security Forces in connection with espionage and illegal stay in the country. Investigations into the matter have commenced,” Brig Byekwaso tweeted yesterday.
A video making rounds on social media, shows armed plain-clothed men raiding the premises of Victoria University along Jinja Road before accessing the office of Dr Muganga, one of the top academics in the country. It is unprecedented because arresting academics at Universities was long before done during Idi Amin’s era. Uganda became a place unwelcome to intellectuals, who fled to Europe, USA or other progressive African countries such as Kenya, Botswana, among others.
During the apprehension process of Dr Muganga, the mean-looking men allegedly from UPDF’s Chieftaincy Military Intelligence (CMI) pointed fire arms at the Vice Chancellor and some of the employees of the University who were in the former’s office.
A mini scuffle ensued when Dr. Muganga’s female security guard belonging to Uganda Police tried to confront the security operatives on why they were arresting her boss. She was manned up by one of the agents and she almost lost her neck during the fight.
The video further shows the security operatives roughing up Dr Muganga before dragging him out of office under the watch of threatened and helpless private security guards manning the Victoria University main campus. He was then whisked away in a van and held in military detention until his release.
The arrest according to rights activists has been compared to Idi Amin’s Panda Gali style by unprofessional servicemen.
More so, Dr Muganga’s arrest was in total disregard to President Yoweri Museveni’s recent directive to security officers to stop abusing the human rights of suspects.
In his August 2021 special address on security matters, President Museveni warned security forces against brutalizing, torturing and manhandling suspects because it was soiling their good image and that of Uganda at large.
“Nobody should be in the uniform of the army when they don’t respect the people of Uganda. When you’re in the army don’t bark at people, don’t beat people or even criminals. Don’t beat children. Nobody should beat any Ugandan. Human rights of the people of Uganda were one of main reasons why NRM went to bush and fought for all those years,” Museveni noted.
“Why do you beat a prisoner, because you are too lazy to interrogate him. These are criminals, the torture was bad but the mistake they did was bigger, they killed our children but these confused people are damaging the good job done by the police and now they spoil it with the beating.”
Museveni further revealed he was going to sensitize the security forces against these abuses and those who will refuse to reform will be dealt with, with a firm hand. He also warned security forces against deporting foreign suspects without following the due process or fair trial.
Ugandans speak out about Dr Muganga’s arrest:
The Leader of Opposition in Parliament Mathias Mpuuga while appearing on NBS TV’s Frontline show on Thursday night condemned the manner in which the top academic was roughed up before his students and staff. Mpuuga said the army should have handled Dr Muganga’s arrest in a more civilized manner.
“The VC of a University is not a small person. The technical thing was to inform the public instead of reacting to social media,” Mpuuga who is also the Nyendo-Mukungwe Member of Parliament told UPDF Spokesperson Brig Byekwaso who was appearing on the same political talk show.
One of President Museveni’s media supporters, Independent magazine Andrew Mwenda lambasted Uganda’s security agencies for employing uncivilized methods, comparing Muganga’s arrest to Idi Amin’s goons.
“Why do Ugandan security agencies use methods last employed by Idi Amin’s goons to arrest people? Couldn’t they have invited Lawrence Muganga, the vice-chancellor of Victoria University, to police for questioning and then detain him? What is so hard with acting civilized?” – Andrew Mwenda.
Mr Frank Gashumba, Social activist and coordinator of Sisimuka Uganda organisation, who has worked with Dr Muganga on fighting for rights and dignity of the Banyarwanda ethnic group in Uganda baptised Abavandimwe, said, Muganga cannot be accused of illegal stay in Uganda because he is “100% a Ugandan born and raised in Masaka.”
“If the spokesperson of the UPDF can allege that he was brutally arrested on allegations that he had overstayed in Uganda, this madness is beyond!”
Gashumba added, If at all he committed a crime, why would military operatives beat, and humiliate him before his staff and students”.