Thursday, April 21, 2005
Uganda Members of Parliament arrested
Two Members of Parliament were yesterday charged with murder and sent on remand at Luzira Prisons.
Ronald Reagan Okumu (Aswa), a deputy executive coordinator for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), and Michael Nyeko Ocula (Kilak) were arrested as they walked from Parliament to the CID to make statements, on the Speaker’s advice.
However, Police spokesman Assuman Mugenyi said the MPs were arrested at the CID headquarters over the February 12, 2002 murder of Alfred Bongomin, the LC3 chairman of Pabbo camp in Gulu.He said investigations were complete and that the accused would appear in court today, but the opposition MPs insisted that they had already been charged.
“We have been investigating this matter. Our investigations are complete,” Mugenyi said.
Okumu described the arrest and charges as political manoeuvre by the Movement to intimidate the opposition. Opposition MPs rushed to Buganda Road Court on learning of the arrest.
Bugweri South MP Abdu Katuntu said, “The Movement is becoming more desperate. Their buffoonery has just started. They have been coaching an LRA returnee on what to say. We expected this and it only energises our struggle against dictatorship.”
Katuntu, an FDC official, said in tramping up charges, the Government hoped to “intimidate and get opposition MPs out of circulation for one year.”
“No intimidation,” he said, “will make us waiver in our fight.”
Bugabula South MP Salaamu Musumba said she was saddened by the inability of the Speaker to protect MPs and by the breach of parliamentary privilege. She said members may not be arrested on their way to or from Parliament. “These guys were got from Parliament,” she said.
She said the charge sheet had been amended and that the court sat after 5:00pm, past the usual working hours.
“It took three minutes in court,” she said.
Terego MP Kassiano Wadri said he was shocked that Okumu and Ocula were in court.
“They say the crime was committed in 2002 but claim investigations are not complete and that it was committed in Gulu. Why don’t you take them to Gulu High Court? What is all this?” he said.
Mugenyi said three other suspects, Steven Olanya, Alex Otim and Walter Laryang, were arrested two weeks ago over the same case and remanded in Luzira. Prior to their arrest Okumu and Ocula were required to report to the CID headquarters at 9:00am but did not.
At lunchtime, Okumu said he was not aware of the summons.
“The Speaker has just notified me of a letter from the CID. He apologised for not passing the letter to me,” Okumu said.
He said the Speaker gave him CID chief Elizabeth Kuteesa’s telephone number. “Kuteesa insisted that the letter was in my pigeon hole. I told her there was nothing because I had just been to my pigeon hole,” he said.
“It is really a shame,” she said. “This is a very disastrous development because for me my interpretation is that Acholi will die everywhere, from Kampala they die of the bad roads, in Gulu, Kony is killing them its not fair.”
Mr Norbert Mao (Gulu Municipality) said, “As a matter of protest, we are going to boycott Parliament. Can you imagine the Speaker even advised Reagan to go to the police?”
Mr Martin Wandera (Workers) said it was extremely regrettable though its no surprise “because this administration has demonstrated how callous it can be.”
He added: “For government to behave in a manner that made some of the people go to the bush is extremely unfortunate. To use the justice system to harass the opposition is extremely unfortunate.”
Walubiri who represents the duo said it was irregular that police wrote a letter through the Speaker and it (letter) was not given to the MPs in time.
He said the Speaker adjourned the House prematurely without any notice. “Let me hope he was not a party to the whole thing,” Walubiri said.
He said it was also irregular that the MPs reported to the CID headquarters and were immediately rushed to court, charged and remanded.
“I think this is highly irregular. Ordinarily members of Parliament ought not to be subjected to this kind of process,” he said.
The two MPs were planning a big demonstration to end the war in northern uganda, but the cunning regime of Yoweri museveni benefits from that war and the demo was to work against the regime. Meanwhile another 150 MPs have officially enlisted with a notorius para-military group(KAP).