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Uganda: Continued Police Harassment of Human Rights Defenders of the Twerwaneho Listeners Radio Club
Letter by William Gomes Salem-News.com
Calling out for the political freedom of Ugandans...
Gerald Kankya is part of a group known as the Twerwaneho Listeners Radio Club (TLC)
(SALEM) - As a reward for his activism, Gerald Kankya spends a lot of time in court in his native Uganda. That is one way police in this African nation deals with humanitarian activists who come to the aid of citizens facing raw treatment from their government, particularly when it comes to land rights.
Earlier this month, Gerald Kankya, who is part of a group known as the Twerwaneho Listeners Radio Club (TLC), was interrogated by government forces over criminal allegations pertaining to “incitement to violence” and “sectarianism”, along with fellow TLC members Mr Ronald Kaguma, Mr Herbert Mugisa and Mr Joseph Mashuhuko.
Police interrogators who rounded up the various members focused on the defenders’ advocacy work relating to illegal evictions. As the interrogation proceeded, it appeared to the defendants that police had in the meantime forced one radio station that works together with with the group on the production of its radio programs, Better FM, to surrender recordings of all TLC programs aired since 13 September 2012, while another station, Voice of Toro, was reportedly approached as well.
Since 2006, TLC has been working on the issue of evictions from community land and the allegedly unlawful transfer of property over community land from the Tooro Kingdom to the government.
President Lt.-Gen. Yoweri Museveni
Commander-in-Chief of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces
Office of the President
PO Box 7168
I am William Nicholas Gomes,Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com.
I came to know of this situation from Front Line Defenders.
On 19 October 2012, human rights defender Mr Gerald Kankya, Coordinator of the Twerwaneho Listeners Radio Club (TLC), received a verbal summons from a local officer from the Fort Portal Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) to appear at the station the same day, in what appears to be a continued campaign of harassment and intimidation against TLC. TLC is a non-governmental organisation based in Fort Portal, in Uganda’s Western region, that carries out human rights advocacy in various ways, including radio programs and human rights monitoring. Since 2006, it has been working on unlawful evictions from public community land. TLC radio programs generally focus on human rights issues with a view to holding public leaders more accountable.
Gerald Kankya refused to present himself on 19 October 2012 in the absence of a written summons. Both himself and many other TLC members have repeatedly been summoned before on Fridays; it is suspected that the goal of this is to keep the human rights defenders detained over the weekend by denying them the chance to apply for bail until the following Monday. On 16 October 2012, Mr Joram Bintamanya and Mr Gilbert Kayondo, both members of TLC, also presented themselves at the Fort Portal CID station in response to a summons, but were denied the opportunity to record statements. Two days previously, the police had taken a statement from the organisation’s lawyer Mr Victor Businge. A fourth member of TLC, Mr Prosper Businge has also received a summons to report to the police, as well as four other staff members of TLC who reported to the police to give statements on 10 October 2012.
On 2 October 2012, Gerald Kankya had already appeared before the regional CID for interrogation on criminal allegations pertaining to “incitement to violence” and “sectarianism”, together with fellow TLC members Mr Ronald Kaguma, Mr Herbert Mugisa and Mr Joseph Mashuhuko. During this interrogation, the police focused on the defenders’ advocacy work relating to illegal evictions. As the interrogation proceeded, it appeared to the TLC defenders that police had in the meantime compelled one radio station that works together with TLC on the production of its radio programs, Better FM, to surrender recordings of all TLC programs aired since 13 September 2012, while another station, Voice of Toro, was reportedly approached as well.
Since 2006, TLC has been working on the issue of evictions from community land and the allegedly unlawful transfer of property over community land from the Tooro Kingdom to the government. Recently, TLC accused the Queen Mother, Ms Best Kemigisa, of direct involvement in the eviction of local people who occupy the land she claims to be the property of the Tooro Kingdom. On 13 September 2012, the Queen Mother conducted a major operation to evict one of the local residents, escorted by elements of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (Uganda’s armed forces). In response, TLC intensified its denunciations highlighting the improper use of government forces in violating human rights. The police is reportedly building a criminal case against the TLC members, suggesting that their denunciations are aimed at inciting the local population to rise against the Tooro Kingdom, a major cultural institution in the region.
In response to the continuous harassment against its members at the hands of the local authorities, there is currently a case pending in which TLC has sued the state for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. Some of the events include an incident in April 2010, when three of the above mentioned members of TLC, Mr Joram Bintamanya, Mr Prosper Businge and Mr Gerald Kankya, were arrested after making critical comments on local radio about the authorities’ failure to properly investigate a suspected murder and abuses committed by the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces. In January 2010 one of the founders and member of the Board of Directors of TLC, Mr Daniel Rubombora, was charged with criminal destruction of property after being detained for two weeks.
I am concerned at this latest summons and the continued police harassment of the Twerwaneho Listeners Radio Club and its members. The reference made during the interrogation to TLC’s alleged intention to incite the population into rising against the local royal authorities is worrying as it could be an indication that fresh, severe charges may be brought against them.
I urge the authorities in Uganda to:
1. Immediately cease all intimidation and police and judicial harassment of the members of the Twerwaneho Listeners Radio Club, as I believe that these actions are solely motivated by their legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights in Western Uganda;
2. Cease targeting all human rights defenders in Uganda and guarantee in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
William Nicholas Gomes
Human Rights Ambassador for Salem-News.com
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Salem-News.com Human Rights Ambassador William Nicholas Gomes is a Bangladeshi journalist, human rights activist and author was born on 25 December, 1985 in Dhaka. As an investigative journalist he wrote widely for leading European and Asian media outlets.
He is also active in advocating for free and independent media and journalists’ rights, and is part of the free media movement, Global Independent Media Center – an activist media network for the creation of radical, accurate, and passionate telling of the truth. He worked for Italian news agency Asianews.it from year 2009 to 2011, on that time he was accredited as a free lance journalist by the press information department of Bangladesh. During this time he has reported a notable numbers of reports for the news agency which were translated into Chinese and Italian and quoted by notable number of new outlets all over the world.He, ideologically, identifies himself deeply attached with anarchism. His political views are often characterized as “leftist” or “left-wing,” and he has described himself as an individualist anarchist.
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