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IUIU students protest delayed hearing of November riots case

IUIU students Derrick Okello Wamboga and Joel Jerry Walyono ran to court following the November 18 and 19 2020 riots triggered by the arrest of Bobi Wine which led to the death of more than 50 people.  

Two law students of Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU) are protesting the delayed hearing of their case in which they challenged the excessive use of force and lethal weapons by security agencies to disperse assemblies. 

Derrick Okello Wamboga and Joel Jerry Walyono ran to court following the November 18 and 19 2020 riots triggered by the arrest of the then National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu which led to the death of more than 50 people.  

The case came up for hearing on Thursday before High court judge Musa Ssekaana. However, the case couldn’t proceed because the judge was away on official duties. The petitioners were asked to return on March 15, 2022, on grounds that the trial judge was away attending to other official duties.

Walyono said that the continued adjournment of their case is unfortunate because even the attorney general, inspector general of police, and chief of defense forces, the respondents to the suits have never shown up in the court. 

He says these are delaying tactics by the respondents to evade justice, arguing that it was the third time that the matter is being adjourned. The petitioners filed their suit on December 21, 2020, and it was first fixed for hearing on March 3, 2021.   

However, none of the respondents neither showed up nor replied to the suit. The matter was then adjourned to June 14, 2021. A few days before the hearing, President Yoweri Museveni imposed a second lockdown which affected court business and operations. After lifting the lockdown, court fixed the matter for hearing on December 16.   

According to their petition, the applicants want the court to declare that the arbitrary dispersal of assemblies by the respondents whether lawful or unlawful is a violation of the right to life, freedom of assembly, and right to protest enshrined in the Constitution of Uganda.

The incident that the army used live bullets, grenades, and teargas to disperse and quell protests across the country followed Kyagulanyi’s arrest in Luuka district on November 18, 2021, where his supporters were demanding his release. They contend that more than 50 people lost their lives while dozens of others escaped with grave injuries. 

The evidence submitted to the court shows that in every electoral cycle specifically 2006, 2011, 2016, and 2021 polls, security agencies have continuously and unreasonably used live ammunition and teargas to disperse rallies. They cite the breakup of the rallies of presidential candidates; Patrick Amuriat Oboi and Kyagulanyi in the name of enforcing the standard operating procedures instituted to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

“That indeed such arbitrariness and use of lethal force or weapons by the security agencies to disperse allegedly unlawful assemblies is an outright violation of the right of assembly, protest, life,” reads Walyono’s affidavit.

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Information obtained by URN shows that the attorney general filed a response to the petition on August 19, 2021, through state attorney Mark Muwonge, saying the case lacks merit. 

“That the applicants have not attached any evidence to prove that any officer belonging to the 2nd and 3rd respondents (IGP and CDF respectively) committed the alleged offenses while in the course of their employment. There is no force of number or name of any officer alleged to have committed any of the alleged offenses,” reads Muwonge’s affidavit.

Months after the riots in question, Museveni said that 32 of those killed were rioters, according to the report compiled by investigators. He said some of the victims were hit by stray bullets while others were knocked by cars. He revealed that the government would compensate the families of the innocent victims. But more than a year later, the families are yet to get the compensation.

SOURCE: Uganda Radio Network.

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