Police drag naked woman, punch Jinja MP
To fellow FDC leaders travelling with her, party official Zainab Fatuma Naigaga was undressed by police officers. But to the police, the FDC secretary for environment undressed herself.
On October 10, Naigaga joined FDC flag bearer Dr Kizza Besigye’s entourage to Rukungiri. The former FDC leader was scheduled to launch his countrywide mobilization drive ahead of his nomination as a presidential candidate on November 3. But the journey ended in a road accident the FDC leaders blame on the police, the arrest of the same leaders, and the undressing of Naigaga.
The police issued a statement on Monday, accusing Naigaga of undressing herself and attached a video to prove it. But videos provided by independent TV stations which covered the incident have different versions. The NBS TV footage of the undressing incident is about nine minutes and 33 seconds while the NTV footage is five minutes and 15 seconds.
In this report, SADAB KITATTA KAAYA reconstructs that day’s events based on eyewitness accounts and unedited video footage from TV journalists.
As early as 6:30am on October 10, all FDC leaders were assembled at Dr Kizza Besigye’s office at plot 6 Katonga road. Since the Rukungiri event was a party activity, the group agreed to wait for the party national chairman Wasswa Biriggwa who arrived late by 15 minutes.
Once they set off, they briefly stopped at Shell Busega. Here they linked up with Wafula Oguttu, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LOP). Oguttu offered his official police escort car to lead the way.
The FDC officials enjoyed a smooth ride until they were jolted by an accident at Kyoja swamp, about 20km out of Masaka town along the Mbarara highway.
The accident, according to FDC spokesman, Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, was caused by policemen commanded by the Greater Masaka regional police commander (RPC) Maxwell Ogwal. Ogwal, according to the group, threw metallic spikes onto the road to stop Besigye’s car.
The spikes missed Besigye’s car, but fell in front of Tororo County MP Geoffrey Ekanya’s car, which in trying to dodge them, knocked the NTV car ahead. In the process, four cars in the entourage, the NTV car, Besigye’s, Ssemujju’s, Ekanya’s and a Rav 4 rammed into each other.
The accident triggered a heated exchange between the FDC leaders and Ogwal who was accused of trying to kill the FDC presidential contender. For some minutes, Besigye remained in his car as MPs; Paul Mwiru (Jinja Municipality East), Ekanya, Ssemujju and a host of other FDC activists took on the police chief.
“This accident was planned because the information we are getting from Rukungiri is that the police is running radio announcements that Besigye has been involved in an accident and will therefore not make it to town,” Ssemujju told journalists at the accident scene.
Besigye later emerged from his car to join other FDC charges in chiding the overzealous police commander. Among them was Zainab Fatuma Naigaga. Ogwal retorted by accusing the opposition leaders of ignoring police signals to stop. He also denied throwing the spikes at the fast-moving convoy.
He later cleared the convoy to proceed. At Kanyaryeru, about 24km before Mbarara town, a combined force of police and UPDF soldiers waited.
Commanded by Hillary Kulayigye, the regional police commander, RPC, Rwizi, the cops blocked Besigye’s convoy. His car was surrounded by a number of police trucks. A state of confusion reigned, as traffic flow along the highway was cut off for more than an hour. Kulyayigye then walked to Besigye’s car and told him he will not proceed to Rukungiri.
“We cannot allow him to proceed to Rukungiri [because] it is not yet time for campaigns, the roadmap is very clear, let him wait for that time [set by the Electoral Commission],” Kulayigye told journalists.
Kulyayigye was joined by Ogwal to command the Kanyaryeru operation but the two officers seemed to take orders from a plain clothes man who was constantly in communication with some other people.
There was a brief scuffle between the cops and journalists. Kulayigye accused journalists of obstructing police work. This was after journalists ganged up to block the arrest a photojournalist.
“It appeared the police didn’t want us to witness the arrest of the FDC leaders because immediately after [the scuffle], they started the arrests,” one journalist told The Observer.
Mwiru was the first to be bundled onto a police truck. Mwiru was also punched several times by a police officer only identified as Byaruhanga.
Byaruhanga was restrained by his seniors.
Consequently, MPs Patrick Amuriat Oboi (Kumi county), William Nzoghu (Busongora North) and Ssemujju were also arrested. Ssemujju was the only MP who was handled gently. A cop walked to his car and asked him to board the police truck. He in fact had time to hand his car keys and phones to one of the journalists at the scene. They were later taken to Mbarara police station.
To avoid being manhandled, Biriggwa pleaded with the cops to allow him board the police truck by himself.
“I am an old man, don’t push me, allow me to take myself,” Biriggwa told the cops.
About 50 metres away, Naigaga loudly criticized police’s inhumane handling of politicians. Four female cops; two field force unit officers, one traffic officer and another in regular police uniform, converged on her. They were overseen by a man in a black shirt, grey trousers and sandals. Other officers joined in as Naigaga resisted arrest.
Some cops pulled her legs, others her hands and others pulled at her clothes. In the process, the cop who was pulling at her blouse tore it, leaving her in a bra.
The guys pulling the legs brought the trousers down to her knees, exposing her behind. The female cops tried to dress her up, but a male officer, an assistant superintendent of police (ASP), ordered, “Let her undress, who cares? Nonsense! Lift.”
In the process, Naigaga screamed.
“Why are you undressing me? You are ashaming me…next time it will be your sister…it will be your child being treated like this,” she shouted at the cops.
At this time, there were eight cops around her.
“She is like a commando,” one cop exclaimed.
Finally, they bundled her onto the police truck. They tried to push her under the seats but she resisted. She in fact got up and pushed down her trousers yelling at a female traffic cop who was trying to dress her up.
“You are a woman, you are a woman, and you want to kill me,” Naigaga yelled.
In a low tone, the cop told her, “My sister, I want to dress you.”
But Naigaga could not take any of that.
“Gasiya [rubbish]! You want to kill me and you are calling me your sister? Since when did I become your sister?” she shot back.
She later jumped off the truck but landed in the cops’ hands. She was bundled back on to the truck and tied with a rope under the seats. She was later driven off to Mbarara police station.
The drama was, however, not about to end. Ogwal tangled with some FDC youths who reminded him that they pay his salary (as taxpayers).
“Stupid! You pay my salary? Aaah! You don’t pay my salary. If you pay my salary, what are you doing here?” Ogwal asked the FDC youths.
Meanwhile, police brought a car carrier and hurled Besigye’s car with him seated inside onto it. Besigye was driven to a nearby police post as he waved through the roof of his vehicle.
The police version and the video presented to back it are slightly different from what journalists at the scene witnessed. According to a police statement released by spokesman Fred Enanga, Naigaga undressed herself.
“One Naigaga Fatuma undressed herself, [she] falsely claimed that security undressed her and insulted the police. She was arrested and later released with the rest of her colleagues and were instructed to go back to Kampala,” Enanga said.
Enanga further stated that security officers had noted that some of the people in Besigye’s entourage were goons who had been hired and were ready to undress or do anything to create an impression that they were being harassed by security personnel.
Civil rights groups and opposition politicians have reacted angrily to the police handling of the whole affair, particularly Naigaga’s arrest. FDC has threatened to institute legal proceedings against the police and individual police officers who were involved in Saturday’s arrest of its leaders.