Ugandan Opposition Leader Pushes for Accountability on Missing Persons and Human Rights Issues

opposition leader mpuuga demands answers on missing persons and human rights violations
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In a recent parliamentary session in Kampala, Uganda, the Leader of the Opposition, Matthias Mpuuga, called upon the Ugandan Parliament to address the pressing issues of missing persons and systematic human rights violations. Mpuuga urged the government to provide an account for those who disappeared during the last general elections and to demand transparency for the lives lost during the November 2020 riots, in which 54 individuals are believed to have been killed by the police and security forces.

The government, at the time, indicated that only 11 of the casualties were rioters, while 42 died from “stray bullets.” President Museveni ordered the police to conduct an audit into these stray bullet incidents at the end of November 2020.

This concern regarding missing persons and human rights violations has been a recurring topic in parliament since early 2022. On February 3, 2022, Opposition Members of Parliament, led by Matthias Mpuuga, walked out of parliament in protest, decrying what they saw as continued violations of Ugandans’ rights by security personnel.

Matthias Mpuuga revisited the issue during a recent parliamentary session, highlighting the escalating human rights violations in the country and the diminishing space for civic engagement. He asserted that Uganda’s track record in respecting, protecting, and promoting human rights is among the poorest in the world.

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Mpuuga’s address came in response to a statement made by State Minister of Internal Affairs, Gen. David Muhoozi, on October 17. Gen. Muhoozi defended the preventive arrest of the National Unity Platform Party President, Robert Kyagulanyi, who had been apprehended violently at Entebbe Airport on October 5. Gen. Muhoozi claimed that Kyagulanyi’s supporters were planning an “One Million March” to incite civil disobedience.

However, Mpuuga characterized the minister’s statement as superficial, inaccurate, and an attempt to justify political repression. He pointed out that the government had made minimal progress in addressing human rights violations, despite promises to investigate the November 2020 shootings.

Mpuuga cited specific cases, including the deaths of Frank Ssenteza and Rita Nabukenya, who he alleged were killed by security vehicles. He also highlighted 22 Ugandans who lost their lives or suffered severe injuries during Kyagulanyi’s campaign for the 2021 general elections. The relatives of these victims still await justice.

Mpuuga questioned the parliament’s role in these matters, asking whether it was too passive to demand accountability and justice. He further accused the government of failing to account for the whereabouts of 18 missing Ugandans, alleging that state security agencies had apprehended them.

The Uganda Human Rights Commission reported that it had been unable to locate 18 of the missing persons within the past year. Bugabula North County Member of Parliament, John Teira, suggested the establishment of an independent parliamentary committee to address missing persons’ cases.

Additionally, the opposition raised concerns about the victimization and targeted killings of Muslims. Mpuuga cited the cases of Musa Mudasir, Muhammad Kiryowa, and Sheikh Muhammad Abbas Kirevu, who were killed by security agencies while in custody as suspects in the Kampala twin bombings in November 2021.

Mpuuga also expressed worry about incidents of prolonged detention without trial, with over 500 National Unity Platform supporters arrested in 2021 and spending a year in custody. More than 50 suspects remain incarcerated at Kitalya and Luzira prisons without trial, and 28 of them have faced trial at the army court-martial without resolution, even three years after their arrests.

The opposition called for the government to account for all political prisoners held within 30 days and demanded the release of all political prisoners tried under the Court Martial. Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa directed the Minister for Internal Affairs to respond to Mpuuga’s statement within 30 days.

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