Moments before the pre-trial conferencing of Amama Mbabazi’s presidential election petition kicked off at the Supreme court, a few metres away in the upscale Kololo neighbourhood, the police was arresting key witnesses in the suit.
But their arrest remained out of public attention until lawyer Asuman Basalirwa brought the matter to the attention of the Supreme court.
Basalirwa said yesterday that at least 12 witnesses, who had travelled from five Busoga districts, were arrested as they arrived for a meeting at Mbabazi’s Kololo residence.
They were intercepted by security personnel recently deployed to keep watch around the former presidential candidate’s home.
“When they arrived, police officers came and asked them where they were going, and when they mentioned that they were witnesses in Mbabazi’s petition, they were bundled onto a police patrol truck and a Super Custom and driven to Kireka [Special Investigations Department headquarters],” Basalirwa told The Observer yesterday.
One of the witnesses, according to Basalirwa, evaded arrest and jumped back into their van to trail the police. His chase ended at the Kireka police facility where they were kept till late in the evening.
They were identified as Robert Ngobi, Wilson Kigombya, Samuel Kiyaga, William Waiswa and Umar Kitimbo. Others are Ken Kabbi, Ronald Waiswa, Henry Dhalawuka, Wilson Kakaire, Wilber Ssemujju and two women only identified as Jessica and Prossy.
According to Solome Nakaweesi, Go Forward’s chief of staff, after the matter was brought to the attention of the Supreme court on Monday evening, they were driven to Jinja.
“Five of them were dumped at the Kamuli roundabout while seven others were jailed at Nalufenya and one was taken to Jinja Central police station,” Nakaweesi said yesterday.
Nakaweesi claimed that since Mbabazi filed the petition challenging Museveni’s re-election, at least 20 members of the Mbabazi camp have so far disappeared.
“We reported last week [that] six polling agents were intercepted on February 29; they were polling agents from Nabweru and Kakiri in Wakiso district, and were heading to Kololo [Mbabazi’s residence] in a Toyota Noah registration number UAP 710N and in possession of original declaration of results [DR] forms. They have since gone missing, and the DR forms which were part of the evidence for the election petition are also missing,” Nakaweesi said.
She added that the Go Forward camp strongly believe that these are acts of sabotage by agents of the state, aimed at instilling fear and interfering with the due process of court.
“Such acts are meant to destroy credible evidence that supports the petition and also intimidate witnesses and other conscious citizens who want to submit such evidence,” Nakaweesi said.
Sources in Mbabazi’s camp claimed that some of the witnesses under detention were officials in the electoral process, who had sworn affidavits that gave some insights on how the elections were rigged, including ballot-stuffing and alteration of results on DR forms.
In the Supreme court on Monday, Chief Justice Bart Katureebe directed Attorney General Freddie Ruhindi to ensure that Mbabazi’s witnesses are not unlawfully detained.
By press time, Ruhindi had called Mbabazi’s lawyers for a meeting on how to handle the continued arrests of the witnesses. The reasons for the arrest of Mbabazi’s guests remained unclear. Yesterday, Kampala Metropolitan police spokesman was quoted in Daily Monitor newspaper as denying knowledge of the arrests.
But police sources yesterday confirmed that some people had been picked up from near Mbabazi’s home and detained in Kireka. One source, a senior police officer, said all the information about these arrests was with police spokesman Fred Enanga, who could not be reached by telephone by press time.