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Opposition leader says his life in danger after illegal police search

Summary: The Police intercepted and searched Tuesday the car of the Justice Forum secretary-general and head of the Interparty Cooperation secretariat, Omar Kalinge-Nnyago. A suspected Police vehicle has since been surveilling his home in Kampala. Below he narrates his ordeal.  

By OMAR DAWOOD KALINGE-NNYAGO

On Tuesday 14,August 2012, at 7.46 pm, as I drove from an Iftar Dinner (Breaking the fast) for Muslims at the Inter Party Cooperation (IPC) offices at Katonga Road in Kampala, where one of my offices is situated, I was intercepted by a fleet of five Police Patrol vehicles and three unmarked civilian cars with armed ununiformed occupants. They were under the command of one officer James Ruhweza, whom I suppose is the District Police Commander at Kampala Central Police Station. He knows me very well and I know him too. There was also another yellow taxi occupied by suspicious ‘security personnel’ in plain clothes.

In the car, a Toyota Hilux Double Cab Pickup was part of my family. At the back of the car were prayer mats that had been used during the Iftar dinner and Evening Prayer (Maghrib), and empty pails that had carried the juice for the guests.

Ruhweza asked me to follow him to the Central Police Station, or CPS, to have my car searched for illegal weapons. I asked him whether he had the authority to do so. He replied that he was a police officer in uniform who was carrying out lawful orders. I inquired about the un-uniformed armed men that were surrounding me. He said I needed not to worry about them. Some of the faces of the armed men in plain clothes were well known to me from the kiboko squad days. By this time a crowd was growing around us.

Sensing that this could be an illegal operation, in fact a possible attempt on my life, I, as the Current Chair of the Inter-Party Organisation for Dialogue, or IPOD, and member of the IPOD Security Committee, called Inspector General of Police, Lt. Gen Kale Kayihura to ask whether the search had been ordered by him. (IPOD is a dialogue platform with a permanent Secretariat for the six political parties represented in Parliament. The parties are Conservative Party, Democratic Party, Forum for Democratic Change, Justice Forum (JEEMA, to which I am the Secretary General/National Coordinator), National Resistance Movement and Uganda Peoples Congress.).

Kayihura’s phone was answered by his assistant who asked me what the matter was, because the IGP was in a meeting. I explained to the assistant that I had been intercepted by Officer Ruhweza and a large number of policemen in uniform and armed men in civilian clothes. He told me that the IGP would call me back shortly. Since yesterday he has not. I am signing off this written statement at 5.15pm, today Wednesday 15, August 2012, after giving the Inspector General of Police sufficient benefit of the doubt.

After failing to get Kale Kayihura directly, although I had initially accepted to drive with Ruhweza to the CPS, I changed my mind. All the time the recent shootings of innocent civilians in Kampala were flashing in my short memory. I knew I would be the next item on the news. In the meantime, one zealous police officer had drawn a gun at me, without sufficient cause, but was restrained by Ruhweza, an action I must appreciate.

After a long hustle, we agreed that the vehicle be searched from where we were blocked, at the end of Katonga Road, towards Fairway Hotel. In the meantime, a crowd was growing and traffic had come to a standstill along Katonga Road. The un-uniformed armed men kept on threatening my family which had by now been ordered out of the vehicle despite my protestation. I objected to simultaneous search of the vehicle, as past experience has shown that it is possible for a corrupt police officer to plant ‘evidence’ if keen attention is not paid. We locked the Cabin of the car to isolate it.

The search began with the open pickup end – the prayer mats and food utensils were thrown disrespectfully on the tarmac and trampled upon by the errant police officers. After the search, the police ordered my family to load the items. My wife refused and asked my children – my eldest daughter, Fatmah Omar (nearly 16), and two of my sons (twin brothers), Ahmad Qassim Omar (nearly 15), Bashir Omar Omar (nearly 15) and dependants - Abdul Wahab (10) and Qassim Masembe (7) not to do so.

A police officer threatened to beat her up and a scuffle ensued – she was physically assaulted but another sober officer restrained the errant one who was asked to step aside “and leave the lady alone.” The police officers reloaded the items.

The second sector that was searched was the Cabin itself. The third and last sector was the bonnet (where the engine is housed). All the searches yielded nothing. Without apology, or any sense of remorse, Ruhweza commanded his troops to drive off. On my way home I was trailed by several security cars, a yellow taxicab and several men on motorbike taxis known as bodaboda.

Another suspicious grey Toyota Premio car with tinted windscreens and disfigured number plates was found parked in-front of my house and has kept passing in-front of my gate at regular intervals since yesterday. My family is traumatized and my daughter, Fatmah Omar in particular, has been very affected by this nasty experience. I am making this statement for the followingreasons.

The local and international public ought to know exactly what happened to me and part of my large family, when a search for weapons that yielded nothing was done on my car and the issues surrounding it.

I think my life and freedom and the welfare of my family is in danger, since this is the first time in a very long time that a public citizen’s car, who has never been involved in any security breach, has been searched for “weapons”. (Not even Dr. Kizza Besigye’s car has ever been searched for weapons or even Mathias Mpuuga’s, the leader of an outlawed activist group, Action for Change).

What was the source of the information that Ruhweza acted upon, and what was the motive of the search that the Inspector General of Police, Kale Kayihura, has not been able to own up?

Incidentally, officer Ruhweza in a telephone conversation with the Justice Forum President, Asuman Basalirwa, has denied ever having searched my car! Police spokesperson Ibn Senkumbi, on the other hand had told a journalist that indeed there was a search that was conducted on my car, but that no arrests were made as nothing was found. There is something fishy here.

I believe there the Police intended to intimidate me, my family and the persons who attended the Iftar Dinner that was held yesterday. Iftar dinners have been organized in Uganda before, by different individuals and organisations. In fact, a day before this ugly incident some members of my own family attended an Iftar Dinner at State House, Entebbe. Nobody searched any one’s car after that dinner. In my car at the time of the search yesterday, there were other invitations extended to me and my spouse to an Iftar Dinner by the American Embassy due tomorrow (today), August 16, 2012 at a private residence. What is so special about this Iftar Party that was held yesterday at my offices, that would warrant the search of my car for weapons?

As lastly, I would like to demand an official explanation from the Inspector General of Police who knows me very well, I suppose, and who had earlier in our meetings at IPOD, provided me with the telephone number I called him on, to which call he has not responded until now.