Tuesday, August 4
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LIFE MEMOIRS: CIVIL RIGHTS DEFENDER INCARCERATED FOR FORCING LEADERS INTO ACTION-PART ONE

In 2017, the Bushenyi district local government leadership ‘refused’ to approve a district service commission. This was due to many reasons, but the residents attributed the ‘refusal’ by the leaders to approve the commission to politicians fronting their personal interests at the expense of service delivery.

To resolve the enigma, residents under a pressure group, Make Bushenyi Great Again (MBUGA) engaged in defiance activities that included the total lock down of the district offices to whip their leaders into action. Residents took to the district leadership to court, where they emerged victors.

 The founder of MBUGA, Mr. Apollo Lee Kakonge, an activist and Executive Director, Western Ankole Civil Society Forum was in the process of bringing the district leadership to order arrested and incarcerated at Nyamushekyera government prison, where he spent over two days and was released on bail.

In the struggle for social justice because that’s what he stands and struggles for to make sure that there is equality, accountable leadership, and unity within the community, Kakonge experienced a lot.

To him, citizens are meant to hold the leadership accountable and now that the population is preparing to go to the ballot to choose their leaders, the mistakes of the past have haunted the district enough and they should not be repeated. He is convinced that his memoirs could in a way or the other influence the future that leaders should know that any bad thing that has defined them should never happen again and there should be a way of resolving conflicts without inviting citizen action.

We shall be serializing Mr. Kakonge’s memoirs in parts as told to Zadock Amanyisa

It was 14th day after we had trounced Bushenyi district in the high court. Many big names had suffered great loss as a result of our court victory. These villains included the National Resistance Movement, Chairman Hajji Hassan Basajabalaba, the four current members of Parliament representing Bushenyi, who in their ‘wisdom’ had wanted to go borrow a service commission from Mbarara District. It was indeed, a people’s triumph over political foolery that had driven our district to shame.

On 18th July 2017, I was bundled in a small dilapidated car, and rushed to the Chief Magistrates Court at Bushenyi, where I spent several hours in the collection cell, with many other suspects awaiting to appear before a magistrate and take a plea.

Around this time, the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Asan Kasingye was attending a meeting at the Bushenyi Resident District Commissioner’s office, and had agreed with stakeholders that I should be released from police detention.

He was surprised to know that I had been rushed to the magistrate’s court. “My” file had been rushed to the resident state attorney, and hurriedly sanctioned.

To avert the looming incarceration in Nyamushekyera Prison, my colleagues with whom I was working with on the District Service Commission let by the then Chairman of the “High Command” Hajji Umar Muhanguzi and friends Deo Atuhaire, Faridah Mutambara, Fred Kibara, Twijukye Mackay etc mooted the idea of petitioning the Regional Director of Public Prosecutions office. They had been briefed on how the District Criminal Investigations Officer –  a one Musinguzi who later was transferred from the district, and the then Resident State Attorney  Bushenyi had received huge bribes from the money man, Hassan Basajjabalaba delivered to them by a one Olden Olden and company.

Finally, the team, with my wife made it to Mbarara and presented their complaint to the DPPs office. Indeed, the complaint was received, and a letter recalling the file to Mbarara was written. Before it was signed, the State Attorney received a suspicious call around the hour of lunch. She moved out of her office and would return back to later around 5 pm. My colleagues had been patiently waiting for her later, which was supposed to be presented to the magistrate that day, to aid for my release as the file is reviewed. The argument was that the charges in the file were cooked, and therefore the need to challenge the local RSA’s decision.

The letter was finally signed and handed over to Umar and team at around 5pm, very late to be able to make it to court in time.

Around that time, the magistrate had run out of time and patience and the prison authorities wanted to take suspects (back) to prison. I was arraigned before a grade one magistrate, who read to me the frivolous charges. At first I didn’t hear him properly, because I was very exhausted after a very long day. Although I was not bothered with what was going on at the point, I needed to understand what the magistrate was saying before I could respond. I think he understood that I had not heard him well. He repeated his statements. The charge sheet, it was attempted murder. I was not surprised!

I was told I could not get bail because the Chief Magistrate who had jurisdiction over the matter wasn’t in court that day. My colleagues had lost so much energy, that at the time when the charges were read to me, no one was around. They were still on their way from Mbarara, and others had retreated to devise new strategies of dealing with the dilemma.

Towards 6pm, or around there, we were handcuffed and off, we started the fateful journey to Nyamushekyera. I had come to terms with what was going on at the time. Everything became normal. In fact, I felt stringer, knowing that for the struggle we had won, there were going to be reprisals from the mafias. I was prepared for it.

The most interesting and surprising  moments – as we exited the gates of Bushenyi Magistrates Court, I met an old friend, a one Waitanga. He had been on worming on the side of Hassan which was against the service commission struggle. As he moved towards a very expensive car (I don’t recall the model) I saw Hajji Basajabalaba inside. He had been waiting outside the court gates to see whether his money had worked and how I was handcuffed as I was being escorted to prison. That’s when I clearly understood what was going on. He later drove off with his colleagues as we trekked and sloped down to Nyamushekyera Prison.

I was later told that, that evening, Hassan held a party, in Ishaka town, with his friends to celebrate my incarceration. Their celebration though, would be outlived, as I will highlight in my subsequent memoirs.
I will share my prison experience in other memoirs which I will serialize until the 1st of August.

To be continued…


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