We Either Urgently Attend to the Cause of Justice and Humanity or Perish

07 Apr

Abwooli Rujumba Omurungi w’Abasambu, it seems in­tend­ed by the bless­ed prov­i­dence of the creator Nkya Ruhanga Nyamuhanga that I should always communicate to you whenever I have matters that require some communicating. Which better way to share the dearest thoughts of one’s mind than to cast them into the ear of an attentive kinsman?

As you may recall, so often you do, sometime back in serenity of these very memoirs, I related to you the unbearably painful story of that most defiant of all human rights defenders personally known to me~ Vincent Vessy Nuwagaba. I met Vincent in the most unusual of circumstances which I am extremely hesitant to reproduce here for fear of repeating myself just too much.

For the same reasons why we lionize him and exalt the truth of his struggles, Vincent is ‘in contact’ with some fanatical elements in the Kampala regime who seem manifestly hell- bent towards killing or destroying him and thus dealing with this problem ‘once and for all’. Here is his latest account.




Vincent Vessy Nuwagaba ©

Vincent Vessy Nuwagaba ©

A personal account of human rights abuse in Uganda raises questions about the role of mainstream human rights organizations supported by international donors.

My pen has since the beginning of 2011 been silent. So many people have been wondering as to what could have happened to me but some have insinuated that I joined Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM). And just like the French saying goes, ‘La bouche qui manger ne parler pas’, meaning that a mouth that is eating doesn’t speak, some people think I am now eating with the ruling cabal. On the contrary, I am still wondering as to why the ruling NRM wants to exterminate me using state institutions that are mandated to protect our rights and our lives.


On 8 February 2012, I went to Speke Resort, Munyonyo for a workshop organised by the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC). The Uganda Prisoners’ Aid Foundation (UPAF) was invited to present a civil society perspective of the state of prisoners’ rights in Uganda. As UPAF’s research coordinator and a person well-conversant with not only prisoners’ rights but also human rights generally, given that I am an ex-prisoner and a human rights defender and scholar, the UPAF chairman Mr. J.K. Zirabamuzale assigned me to write the paper. The agreement was that when he presented it, I would be around. I have in the past attended UHRC workshops whenever our organisation is invited and I have been at the forefront of quite a number of human rights activities together with UHRC and other human rights organisations.

This time when I arrived in the conference room, I found Ms Christine Nading, Assistant Commissioner of Police Legal speaking. The issues she raised demanded that they be responded to by a person who knows the conduct of the police thoroughly – not the one who reads about the police in newspapers and watches them on television sets. I accordingly, wrote a chit for UHRC’s Roselyn Karugonjo-Segawa asking to be given time to respond to Christine Nading. I thought I was doing the most diplomatic thing only to be told a short while later that I was not supposed to be in that function. I explained to them that our organisation (UPAF) was invited and that we were presenting a paper.

I was kicked, humiliated, dehumanised and brutalised by the police at the orders of Roselyn Karugonjo-Segawa, UHRC’s Director of Monitoring and Inspections, and Gordon Mwesigye, the UHRC Secretary. In a human rights function, organised by the Uganda Human Rights Commission to prepare for the Universal Periodic Report (UPR), a human rights defender who has sacrificed too much, suffered at the hands of the police, been put in jail for advocating the rights of the voiceless is subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the very people who are mandated to protect all Ugandans’ rights. Shame on Roselyn Karugonjo-Segawa and shame on Gordon Mwesigye, and if these people were human enough they should have resigned from their offices on that very Wednesday of 8 February 2012.

After roughing me up, I was driven to Kabalagala Police station in the UHRC vehicle. From Kabalagala, I was driven to Butabika Mental Hospital in the Police Patrol vehicle. When I reached the Out Patient Department (OPD) of Butabika, the policemen who had taken me there were embarrassed when the hospital staff told them, ‘the man is sane, why have you brought him here?’ Meanwhile before reaching Butabika I was deprived of my Bata shoes, my shirt, money and many other possessions. They left me there and I walked on my own half-naked as they had deprived me of my shoes and my shirt.


I was lucky to find a friend who took me to his home and gave me lunch, a shirt and shoes and Sh5,000 for my transport. The following day on 9 February 2012, I went back to Butabika and this time I had gone to talk to the hospital administration to warn them against pandering to the whims of those that are persecuting me on political grounds. What befell me instead was total hell. Dr Julius Muron ordered the hospital guards to arrest me and take me to the police. At the police post, Muron himself said, ‘This man is perfectly sane, he doesn’t have any mental or psychiatric problem but he is causing chaos within the hospital’. He then added, ‘Keep him here and charge him’. I was then locked up at the police post. Later I learnt that when one of the policemen came (he wears civilian attire and therefore he could be the Criminal Investigation Detective), he told Muron that they had no way to charge me because I hadn’t committed any offence.

Thereafter, I was grabbed by the hospital guards at the orders of Dr Julius Muron and taken to Kirinya ward from where Dr Muron subjected me to 18 injections, nine on each side of the buttocks and later dumped me into a side room which is an equivalent of the solitary cells from which they torture some prisoners in Luzira. Later I became unconscious and I regained my consciousness after 12 days on 21 February.

I have been told that if one of the support staff members who happens to be my relative (whose name I will not reveal now for fear of reprisals) wasn’t there to feed me by forcefully opening my lips, get mushrooms for me, wash me and nurse me like his own son, I would definitely have died.

Without any sense of shame, even when I regained my consciousness, I was kept on drugs; the same drugs which almost claimed my life in 2008. On the 23rd I left Butabika without any formal discharge.

The Pan Africanists at Makerere who saw me were shocked and suggested that I must go for a medical examination. At first I hesitated but every passing day, I am losing weight at a rate that has gotten me worried. All the very small sized trousers that I had already shelved cannot even fit me.

Meanwhile as Dr Muron did whatever he did, I was deprived of my property – my laptop computer, my shirt and jacket, my pair of trousers, my wallet containing huge sums of money, my belt, my phone, shoes and a bible. When I went to Butabika, I was initially only given a phone and Sh100 but later, they gave me a pair of shoes and a bible.

I have in the past sued Dr Tom Onen together with the Attorney General under civil suit 92/2009. Sadly, although neither the Attorney General nor Dr Onen filed a defence and therefore I was waiting for ex parte judgement, I was shocked to learn that my case was dismissed on 28 August 2009 at a time when I was on remand in Murchison Bay Prison Luzira on trumped up charges of assault and threatening violence. The ‘crime’ I had committed though, to which I pleaded guilty, was opposing the increment of fees in public universities by up to 126 percent.

After suing Dr Onen, I was declared persona non-grata in Butabika and I was tortured, traumatized and tormented several times by the police and Butabika Hospital guards at the orders of a one Grace Lubale, a former Butabika Hospital Administrator. Grace would tell me, ‘Nuwagaba, you sued us; you are therefore not allowed to step here’. Even when I would go to visit the victims of political persecution and the thieving political establishment such as Gaudence Tushabomwe, who was conned of her money by an organisation that had links with the ruling party, I would be tormented.

The UHRC whose mandate is to ensure the protection and defence of our rights has also fallen victim and it is at the forefront of the perpetration, perpetuation, orchestration and promotion of injustice.

When I reported to the president about my ordeal, some of the young men and women initially seemed interested in giving me a fair hearing. With time, however, Justus Karuhanga, President Museveni’s former legal officer told me, ‘Nuwagaba, you can go to court and sue the government’. I am interested in knowing whether or not the office of the president ever had a hand in the dismissal of my case without even giving me a ruling.

The courts, which are supposed to be temples of justice, cannot dispense justice to the unsung victims such as Nuwagaba. The Ugandan media can only write about a personality whom they feel can sell their papers; the so-called human rights organisations of which I am a member to some cannot inspire hope. They employ people whose interest is not promoting human rights but making money. Many of our human rights organisations, if not all, get money from donors purportedly to help the voiceless citizens. What they do instead is write accountability papers for the donors and they give no accountability to the voiceless citizens on whose behalf they get the funding. In analysis, they con, cheat and dupe the donors who give them money to help the voiceless.

I know I am broaching a hot subject but I must not keep silent. I have taught in the university and have worked with civil society organisations. I have seen only one genuine human rights organisation in Uganda called Uganda Prisoners’ Aid Foundation under the stewardship of J.K. Zirabamuzale. It is the only organisation that does human rights work even when it has no funding from anybody and none of the staff is a salaried employee.

I have seen discrimination, sectarianism, and inequality perpetrated by the so-called human rights defenders. No wonder many of them do not have the wherewithal to challenge the government where it goes wrong.


I am a Ugandan citizen, not anybody’s subject. Like I have stated before when I wrote to IGP (Inspector General of Police) Kale Kayihura, I am an ethnic Mukiga and the Bakiga have never had a king. Accordingly, we have never been subjects. I am a firm believer in non-violence and my icons are Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and our very own Norbert Mao. Whoever feels threatened by my words must him/herself be suffering from schizophrenia. I have several times been thrown in jail for no offence committed. In 2008 I escaped death by a whisker as Dr Onen was used to kill me; just recently Dr Muron wanted to kill me and I don’t know whether I am safe yet. As a citizen, I demand justice or death.


1 Comment

Posted by on April 7, 2012 in Politics


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One response to “We Either Urgently Attend to the Cause of Justice and Humanity or Perish

  1. Florence Munyirwa

    April 11, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    Statement from Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) in Response to Pambazuka News Article titled ‘As a Ugandan citizen, I demand justice or death’

    The attention of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) has been drawn to a news article authored by Mr. Vincent Nuwagaba titled ‘As a Ugandan citizen, I demand justice or death’ posted on the Pambazuka News and All Africa Websites. The article makes various allegations against a number of agencies among which were those against the Uganda Human Rights Commission. The Uganda Human Rights Commission therefore wishes to make the following clarifications as far as Mr. Vincent Nuwagaba’s allegations are concerned:

    On 8 February 2012 Mr. Vincent Nuwagaba came in without invitation for a closed UHRC Annual Report Consultative Meeting at the Commonwealth Speke Resort Hotel in Munyonyo, Kampala. We could have allowed him to stay but he behaved in a disruptive manner by walking right to the front of the room, sitting down and shouting during the presentations. Ms. Roselyn Karugonjo-Segawa, Chairperson of the session politely requested him to leave the meeting but he refused. He sent her a note saying that even if she called the Inspector General of Police and the President of Uganda, he would not budge. He shouted that he had information to provide regarding the Police misconduct. His conduct prompted Mr. J.K Zirabamuzale of Uganda Prisoners Aid Foundation to speak to him and they walked out of the room. The management of the UHRC, the Head and Staff of the Office of UN OHCHR, members of civil society and the Police were in that meeting and witnessed everything. The session continued but Mr. Gordon Mwesigye, the Secretary and other staff went out of the room to follow Vincent. When Vincent came out of the room he became violent and threatened the Secretary, Mr. Gordon Mwesigye and other staff of the UHRC. The Hotel Security picked him up and took him to Kabalagala Police Station. When he got to the Police Station, he took off his clothes prompting Police to refer him to Butabika Mental Hospital.

    On 31 March 2012 he came to the UHRC offices at about 11:00am. He loudly threatened and insulted Ms. Karugonjo-Segawa. When he was questioned about his complaint, he spoke in a confused and incoherent manner. He complained about the NRM government and how they had destroyed his life and how he would have had a PHD by now etc. When he was asked to leave the UHRC premises he threatened violence against the security (Police) at the premises and attempted to fight them. He was later taken to Central Police Station. However, the UHRC requested that he should not be incarcerated since he appears to be mentally unstable and with signs of delusions. It is the view of most of the people who know Vincent and work closely with him as a human rights defender that he urgently needs mental health care because he has been behaving strangely in the recent past.

    Unfortunately, Vincent alleges that UHRC officials Mr. Gordon Mwesigye and Ms. Roselyn Karugonjo-Segawa ordered the Police to torture him. Although these allegations have been published on Pambazuka News and other blogs, the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) would like to clarify that the allegations are false, unfounded and unfortunate. The Uganda Human Rights Commission staff never ordered and cannot order the Police to subject any one to torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment and least of all Mr. Vincent Nuwagaba whose condition is well known to us and most of the human rights defenders in Kampala. We are well aware that Vincent has been in and out of Butabika Mental Hospital in Kampala on account of his mental condition.

    We therefore wish to re-assure the public that the Uganda Human Rights Commission is fully committed to the fulfillment of its mandate to promote and protect human rights including protection of all Ugandans from torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment as clearly laid down in the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda.

    Florence M. Munyirwa,
    Public Affairs Manager,
    Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC)

    10 April 2012


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