Uganda is again in the spotlight for gross human rights violations, according to the 2019 country report on Human Rights Practices. The report was released by the United States (U.S) Department of State on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.
Michael R. Pompeo, U.S Secretary of State says the report addresses situations and events in the calendar year 2019 only using information from U.S. embassies and consulates abroad, foreign government officials, non-governmental and international organizations, jurists and legal experts, journalists, academics, labour activists, and published reports.
The report shows that there were several reports where the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, including due to torture in 2019.
“Significant human rights issues included: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; forced disappearance; torture; and arbitrary detention by government agencies. The government was also responsible for harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; detainment of political prisoners; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; lack of independence of the judiciary,” the reports says in part.
According to the report, while the Ugandan constitution and law prohibit torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, the US government says there were credible reports in 2019 that security forces tortured and physically abused suspects.
They refer to the case of Makerere University student and Kyagulanyi supporter Joshua William Mukisa who was on June 23 dumped at a fuel station in Jinja outside Kampala, with scars on his limbs incurred from torture while in detention by unidentified individuals.
“The UPF [Uganda Police Force] said it was investigating the circumstances surrounding Mukisa’s kidnapping but released no details from the investigation by year’s end,” says the report.
The report also carries complaints and reports from Ugandan civil society activists, media, and opposition politicians indicating that the CMI [Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence] and ISO [Internal Security Organisation] were operating unofficial detention facilities called “safe houses” in the Mbuya, Nakasero, and Kololo neighbourhoods of Kampala, Kyengera in central Uganda, and the Kalangala Islands in Lake Victoria near Entebbe.
The report adds, “On August 5, opposition Member of Parliament (MP) and presidential hopeful Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, announced that his supporter, fellow musician Michael Kalinda also known as Zigy Wyne, died at Mulago Hospital due to injuries sustained from severe torture. Kyagulanyi said that Kalinda went missing on July 21 after receiving multiple messages warning him “to be careful.” Unidentified individuals dropped Kalinda’s body at the hospital with an eye plucked out, two fingers cut off, and with burns on his torso. According to the Uganda Police Force (UPF), a hospital postmortem concluded that Kalinda succumbed to brain injuries caused by “blunt force trauma to the head.” The postmortem report added, “Kalinda’s right hand had cuts on two fingers, classified as defense injuries arising out of a struggle.” On August 5, the UPF concluded “the injuries point to a straightforward case of murder.” On August 6, however, the UPF reversed its initial finding and said that further investigations had revealed that Kalinda sustained his injuries in a motorcycle accident and closed all investigations into murder. Kyagulanyi refuted the UPF account and said he would continue to assert that the state murdered Kalinda unless the UPF presented evidence to show Kalinda died in an accident. At year’s end the UPF had not presented any closed-circuit video evidence (see section 1.f.) of the incident.”
Uganda’s government is yet to respond to the report.