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Eating your cake and having it – a tale of Uganda’s battered journalists

Television Journalist Andrew Lwanga was brutally battered by a District Police Commander. Inspector Joram Mugume’s brutality caused severe spinal injuries that have been treated in South Africa. The circumstances under which Lwanga was battered coupled by the weapon used and the nature of injuries he sustained constituted a more serious crime of Assault Causing Grievous Bodily Harm and Attempted Murder in alternative. Instead the police opted to charge its own with a lighter sentence of assault.

When the incident took place, the media fraternity did not effectively show solidarity by at least laying down their tools. Instead Andrew Lwanga chose to accept financial handouts from the police and other government agencies including Museveni. Last week court convicted Inspector Joram Mwesigye and handed him a sentence of a fine of one million shillings or one year imprisonment in default. He was also ordered to pay five million shillings to the victim as compensation.

Now Andrew Lwanga is crying foul that he was not accorded appropriate justice owing to the light sentence handed out to Inspector Mwesigye. The media body, Uganda Human Rights Network for Journalists (UHRNJ) has come out strongly to condemn the lighter sentence handed out to the accused. It is calling for the dismissal of Inspector Mwesigye from the Police force. It has joined the victim in crying for the 20M shillings that was promised by Museveni but only received only 7M shillings and the 5M shillings that was promised by the police but only paid 1M.

UHRNJ is threatening to lodge an appeal against the sentence and is questioning the professional conduct of the police Surgeon, Dr. Emmaul Nuwamanya who conducted the medical examination on Andrew Lwanga before making a finding of simple assault. UHRNJ forgets that it not by accident that the Police Surgeons are Dr. Byaruhanga and Dr. Nuwamanya and not Dr. Onzivua who was criminalized for ‘stealing the body parts of the late Cerina Nabanda (M.P). Overall, since when did victims of crime accept financial handouts from their tormentors while the matter is before courts of law!!!! No wonder, moreover after the Magistrate reading out the sentence, the accused police commander flashed a thumb up sign of the Museveni regime.

The suspect enjoyed the full protection of the regime that influenced the sentence and all the court fines will be paid from the police budget. Even if the police are pushed into dismissing its commander from the force, he will be reposted to a more lucrative position because job security is part of the terms of regime sponsored brutality.

Now that a cheap price tag has been placed on battering of Journalists, just last week a superintendent of Police, Muhindo attached to Nkozi police station in Mpigi district led a group of Crime Preventers who brutally assaulted two New Vision Journalists and destroyed their cameras. The police officer has been suspended and we are yet to see how much compromise in terms of cash the victims will accept from the Police.

Last week a one Mubarak Kalenge of KCCA was kidnapped by armed regime security agents, detained in unknown place and tortured before he was dumped by the roadside in the city suburb. Under the police guard, he is undergoing treatment for serious injuries that he sustained during the nasty ordeal. The same police have ordered his family members not to disclose to the public any information pertaining to his ordeal or nature of injuries sustained and the subsequent medical treatment he is being offered. This move is designed to provide a cover-up for the excesses of the rogue regime security operatives. To the family of Mubarak Kalenge; your acceptance to be silenced is a betrayal to your fellow country men and women.

The other day the family of Rhona Katusabe who had been murdered by a District Police Commander was compromised into urging the prosecutor authority not to commence criminal proceedings. Lawyers have been battered by the police in the course of their duties to dispense justice as officers of court but the entire legal fraternity has kept silent. Medical workers have not been spared either. Members of the public transport sector have been harassed, tortured, maimed and in some cases arbitrarily killed but silence is the order of the day. It’s that kind of silence and compromise that is breeding impunity among security officers who are not deterred in their resolve to batter, maim, torture, kidnap and kill their victims. You can either eat your cake or have it but not both.