report on activities of security operatives and local politicians in Pakwach district
This research in Pakwach district was conducted between February and May 2019, the research reveals the practical and human rights consequences that local government and security forces had carried out arbitrary arrests and detentions, used physical violence, and seized or destroyed the property of fishermen communities. Fishermen told the Albertine Watch Marine Police and military regularly went on Lake Albert to intimidate fishermen and suppress opposition related to the fishing regulation. Marine police in Panyimur regularly stole or killed fishermen arbitrarily.
Summary of the findings
Police was reported to be practicing and accepting bribes from individuals who might fall under their conviction for either release or letting them conduct illegal businesses around including gambling, selling marijuana in the community especially in areas of Dei, Panyigoro, Boro, and Kayonga.In Kayonga one respondent told the Albertine Watch that there is a certain lady who practices marijuana business and she is always in touch with the police who gives her exemption after bribing them.
The Albertine Watch was also informed that sometimes the police in Dei carry out unlawful arrests of locals without clear investigations and consultations from area authorities like Local Councils. This, our respondent termed it as taking advantage of them being illiterates hence violating their rights.
Police and the immigration office are reported to be disturbing people who use waters to cross especially at Wanseko. If one doesn’t have a National Identification Card, but having the NIRA papers showing his/her ID is still in the making, sometimes (police) put them aside and ask them to pay illegal fees for not having Identicards. The price paid to Police range between 5000 to 50,0000 Ugandan shillings. One particular policeman Okurut at Panyimur Singila was noted as key player robbing people of their monies at Panyimur Ferry port.
The marines police is the main reason for most of the suffering of the community especially those in the fishing sector.
They are reported to be collecting and confiscating fishermen fish and other properties by force (they mostly collect the big mature fish), they go with it and sell it from a hidden place somewhere while leaving the fishermen in despair at their work. Should a fisherman tries to resist giving up their fish to the police, you are beaten up. Police Marine is said to be doing business rather than real assigned duties in the communities around the lake Albert in Panyimur.
One respondent told the Albertine Watch that these marines are just exploiting the poor fishermen and local community than helping them to address the problems they face on the waters as fishermen.They rather came to make poor locals poorer.
There is a reported conflict between Ugandan fishermen and Congolese marine forces. The Congolese are continuously being reported to be crossing the borders on the lake, enter into Uganda’s territories torture Ugandan fishermen on the waters, confiscate and burn their boats and nets, detain them under gun point, and making them to pay huge ransoms of about 2 million shillings to get them back. All this happens in the face and acknowledgement of Ugandan marine forces, police and the military at the landing sites but nothing has ever been done to help them find justice. This is said to have caused a lot of suffering to Ugandan fishermen especially in Dei.
A few days to the beginning of our research, it was found that there were about five marine Police who were transferred from Dei to other places which are not yet known. The transferred police include Dickson, Simone, Ochama and Okurut Isaac (Ongweno). According to our respondent, their transfer followed several complaints from the local fishermen who suffered from their mistreatments at the landing sites involving confiscation of fishermen properties including fish, beating fishermen among others.
The Albertine Watch discovered that some politicians in and within Panyimur including Local councils, Councilor (Gyom) who is even expected to be contesting for LC3 for Dei sub-county are found of receiving bribes from individuals operating illegal businesses. There was also reported conflicts between local authorities from Panyimur sub-county and Dei. These range from power struggles to development initiatives where leaders from Panyimur tended to undermine and suffocate anything good meant for Dei sub-county. For example; The LC3 Panyimur is reported to have been so much against the construction of a toilet block at the border and landing site by Red Cross however his efforts were futile and the toilet is under construction.
The National Drug Authority scandal.
Recently, the leadership of the National Drugs Authorities from Arua regional offices visited Panyimur to conduct drug inspection and search private owned drug shops in the community. This resulted in the confiscation of drugs worth 100,000,000 Ugandan shillings from the local drug shops they found operating without a permit. However, the Albertine Watch was informed that the National Drugs Authorities instead sold the confiscated drugs to another businessman identified as Moses Onenrwoth, a proprietor of another clinic located at Dei border which is also said to be selling expired Government drugs which are suppossed to be be given free to patients from government health facilities.
The Albertine Watch monitored the human rights situation in Pakwach district between February to May 2019, in order to promote and protect civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of Ugandans citizens and to report on violations and defend the victims. The Albertine Watch does not believe that the human rights organisations endeavors to protect the ‘individual’ from violations perpetrated by the state; rather, it believes that human rights organisations should establish the rights and dignity of every individual which is the part of the struggle to constitute Uganda as a democratic state. The Organization unconditionally stands by the victims of oppression and maintains no prejudice with regard to political leanings or ideological orientation, race, religion or sex.
The Albertine Watch continues to shed lights on the different human rights challenges facing communities in the Albertine region. The Staff of Albertine Watch has continued to be persecuted and continued to be harassed and threatened by different actors due to its human rights activism. Despite this, the Albertine Watch will continue to work; and will continue to publish revelations on the human rights situation in the region in collaboration with other partners on ground.
The overall human rights situation of the FIVE months in 2019 (February – June) has been analysed through this report where violations of civil and political rights, including state repression and deprivation of the right to life were incorporated.
National Resistance Movement (NRM) government remains in power since 1986 up to date, this has resulted in increased human rights violations. And what is happening now is the continuation of the trend of human rights violations of the last 32 years by president Museveni who came to power in January 1986.
As a result, the government is able to use the national institutions like the Election Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission, and the National Human Rights Commission, for implementing its political agenda.
There have been grave human rights violations on opposition party leaders and activists in the region.
Opposition leaders and activists continued to be sent to jail in different cases, including under fictitious cases filed against opposition leaders and activists during the elections. Because of this, prisons are grossly overpopulated and many prisoners are becoming ill. Furthermore, several inmates allegedly are dying in jail due to lack of proper treatment facilities and negligence by prison authorities.
Intra-party clashes and criminalization of the ruling party leaders and activists are also visible in the last five months. During the last 10 years, criminal activities of the NRM leaders have crossed all the limits and they are enjoying impunity with government’s support. Though they are publicly involved in various types of criminal acts, including carrying and using firearms and other lethal weapons, members of the law enforcement agencies could not take any action against them.
The election of Beach Management Units (BMU) took place on various landing sites in the district, it was conducted through extensive irregularities and as a result, the Lc5 grabbed most of the seats to his colleagues who supported him the last election.
Incidents of deaths due illegal shooting with fire arms continue to take place on Lake Albert as a result of a weak criminal justice system, impunity of law enforcement agencies, and the lack of people’s confidence in the institutions due to corruption, have increased the tendency of taking the law in the hands of common people.
Attacks on ferry passengers continued in the last five months. Many people are being denied freedom of movement by Confiscating their National Identification card.
In the last five months, the rights of the workers have been severely violated. Teachers of various schools have not received their salaries. Allegations of ill-treatment, including sexual harassment of Pakwach district women public servants were reported and in such cases allegations of the non-cooperation of top district official were noted.
Chinese investors continued to interfere in the economic, political and cultural affairs of Pakwach district local government. Incidents of various types of human rights violations, including killing and torturing of Ugandan citizens by the Border Security Intelligence, have been reported during this period. Borders security Forces members have also entered into Democratic Republic of Congo territory and attacked Congolese citizens.
Activists and Human rights defenders remained under monitoring and their activities are frequently hindered by Pakwach district local government officials who feel threatens of activism. Incidents of harassment against various community based organizations were reported. Many communities based organizations critical of the district administration reported rejection of their application for renewal of their registration by the district NGOs monitoring committees, up to now registration of 5 community based organizations have not been renewed till the publication of this report.
At a meeting in Panyimur on March,23,2019 a wife (name reserved) of the man who was killed extra-judicially alleged that the police led by Kushaba Michael Officer-in-Charge of Dei Police Station in Panyimur sub-county, picked up her husband from their house in Dei and tortured him first.
On 13 February 2019, a person named Okumu Hassan of Dei,was killed in ‘gunfight’ with the marine police .The marine police claimed that the deceased was a drug dealer and smuggler. However, the wife of the deceased, said her husband was a fisherman and was not involved in drug dealing and smuggling.
16 persons were reportedly killed extra judicially between January and May 2019. Of them, 10 persons were killed by marine police, 5 by Congolese armies. Furthermore, among the deceased, one person was allegedly beaten to death by Kushaba Micahel the OC police of Dei police station.
There were a number of allegations of killing, torture, seeking bribes, rape, assault, harassment and extortion against members of law enforcement agencies and the security forces during this reporting period.
On 10 March 2019, at around 3:00 am, marine police of Dei Police Station allegedly shot at the left knee of a man named Okello Godwin when he went for fishing on Lake Albert. They later threw him in the Lake and he died. His body was not discovered. Police claimed that Okello was a smuggler.
Due to a weak criminal justice system, lack of implementation of laws, impunity of law enforcement agencies and corruption, people are losing their confidence and faith in the police and judicial system. As a result, ordinary citizens resort to the tendency of taking the law into their own hands and public lynching has increased.
From January to May 2019, women have been victims of rape, sexual harassment, dowry related and domestic violence. The number of child victims seems to have increased. Despite the various types of oppression and widespread incidents of violence against women and children, the status of the trial and punishment of perpetrators is very frustrating.
Nearly half of the women and children became victims of harassment in the police station at the time of filing rape cases. Their cases are being recorded reluctantly. They had to spend money and in most cases, police cannot arrest the accused. Police have blamed political leaders, public representatives, local criminals and senior police officers for not being able to arrest the accused. The police investigation found that two-thirds of the victims of rape are children. There are no rules of law in Uganda as a result of the unaccountable government of Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who is clinging into power by using party leaders and activists loyal to him through farcical elections. As a result, the ruling party leaders, activists, and supporters are enjoying impunity and they are carrying out various kinds of violence against women, including rape.
In the first five months of 2019, a reported total of 6 women were subjected to dowry violence. Among them, two were allegedly killed and four were physically abused due to dowry demands.
On 7 April 2019, a housewife named Akumu Doreen 35 years old was allegedly killed by her husband Reuben Alia and his parents, her body was kept hanging in the house. She had failure to account for the 3 basins of cassava flour she sold in the market. The incident took place in Panyigoro Village in Pakwach district.
On 18 May 2019, two armed members of the DRC police entered Uganda Dei border under in Pakwach district.
On 24th February 2019, Kushaba Michael the OC police Dei station along with some other police entered the Democratic Republic of Congo to bring cows through the adjacent area of Kolokoto border in Mahagi Territory of Ituri Province. They raided 20 cows from DRC and sent them to kampala
On 2 May 2019, a Congolese citizen named Ucama Abudu), while returning with fish from Lake Albert through Wanseko –Dei border in Pakwach district, was shot dead by Dei marine police and his body was also thrown in water and was not discovered up-to-date.
The government must stop enforced disappearances perpetrated by law enforcement agencies and bring the members of the state security forces and law enforcement agencies who are involved in this heinous crime, before the law. The government must accede to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
The government should refrain from repressive, unconstitutional and undemocratic activities. Human rights, including freedom of assembly of the opposition political parties and people who have alternative beliefs have to be respected. The government must stop harassment against the opposition and dissenters.
The government must ensure effective implementation of laws to stop violence against women and children and the offenders must be effectively punished under prevalent laws. Police must investigate reports of such crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice. Criminals affiliated with the ruling party should not be given immunity. The government should also execute mass awareness programmes in the print and electronic media, in order to eliminate all forms of violence against women.
The Dei and Panyimur Border Security Force must stop human rights violations, including killing and torturing citizens along the border areas; and it must compensate the victims of violence.