Members of Parliament; Paul Mwiru and Gerald Karuhanga have finally spoken out publicly on their arrest and torture, two weeks since their arrest in Arua district.
The two legislators have been in detention since August 13 when they were apprehended with over 30 other people on the last day of campaigns in the Arua municipality by-election. The legislators had been camping in Arua to rally support for Kassiano Wadri, one of the candidates in the election.
Police accuses them of involvement in the throwing of stones at the motorcade of President Yoweri Museveni. Days later, they were charged with treason and remanded to Gulu prison where they have been until today when they secured bail.
When they spoke to the press outside the Gulu High Court on Monday, both of them revealed that they were subjected torture by personnel of the Special Forces Command (SFC) a unit which guards the President.
“These were rough 14 days. We were terribly tortured in he hands of SFC and Police. We could not believe that we were alive,” Karuhanga, the Ntungamo Municipality MP said to journalists moments after he was released on bail.
“The regime is seemingly in panic,” he added.
He narrated that while under Police custody in Arua, the military stormed the police station and a fight ensued, with the military demanding to take the suspects. They (military) literally fought with Police, he said.
“At 2am, we were brought to Gulu Police. The worst experience again was at Gulu Police. For three nights, we were sleeping on a cemented floor. They gave us small rations of food and they chased away people who brought us food,” Karuhanga said.
On his part, Mwiru punched holes in the narrative by government that he and his colleagues were arrested for throwing stones at the President’s convoy in Arua.
He said that during their arrest, the security kept telling them that they would be freed only on one condition – revealing Bobi Wine’s whereabouts.
“I went to Arua on my own accord as a person. But when I was arrested, they started beating me and asking me where Bobi Wine was. Our only offence was that we didn’t know where Bobi Wine was,” he said.
During Monday’s court session, Mwiru appeared with his left arm supported by an arm sling, supposedly as a result of the beating he suffered.
“They kept on peddling lies when we were arrested that it had to do with the President’s car. It’s a lie. We did not encounter the motorcade of the President anywhere. We had our rally in Oli Division, the President had his rally in Arua hill Division”.
He said that their arrest was nothing short of a ploy by the government to disorganize the Opposition and win the by-election in Arua municipality.
Like Karuhanga, the Jinja East legislator said that “this can only break our bodies but not our spirit”.
He accuses SFC, Police and army of breaking into their hotel rooms and arresting them without mentioning to them which offences they were arrested for.
Commenting on what the events of the last two weeks mean, Karuhanga said that he and his colleagues with whom he has been in jail remain unshaken about fighting the current government.
“If anybody imagined that we would be cowed by tormenting us under all this oppressive and repressive approach, we are much stronger and greater in spirit than we were before”.
“We’ve been telling them that their days are numbered. It’s just a matter of time. People power is unstoppable, people have already made their station”.
He said that contrary to the idea that the opposition is divided, the composition of court in Gulu on Monday was a manifestation that all dissenting opinions (in the opposition) have come together. Several opposition politicians including FDC’s Dr Kizza Besigye and DP’s Norbert Mao were present in court.
Mwiru challenged Ugandans who have decided to be spectators of Uganda’s politics and are hesitatnt to contribute to the change in governance, saying that it isn’t safe there either.
“There were people we had in prison who were picked from shops, on boda bodas and along the way, but they are facing the same charge (treason) with us. Yet they have nothing to do with politics. One of them was a medical officer. He was riding a motorcycle, he was hit on the head, he fell and was arrested,” Mwiru said.
“Many people in the public want to take benefits of the change but don’t want to participate. These people [government] can pick you wherever you are the way they picked us. We need to put our heads together and think about our country, otherwise we are destined for the worst”.
Mwiru feels that Parliament did not do enough especially regarding the human rights violations that the MPs and other suspects were subjected to.
Despite the ill treatment he has witnessed while in custody, Mwiru says he has forgiven President Yoweri Museveni.
“On my own behalf and that of my colleagues, we have forgiven the President for perpetrating this torture,” he said.