Reign of terror descends on Kampala as Museveni now targets youth
By Charles Kamya Ssentamu
As the pressure mounts on his keleptocractic regime, Uganda’s longtime dictator is turning his terror machine on the youth who have become ever more determined to reclaim their future. And to show how desperate he is, the reign of terror is not sparing even members of his own National Resistance Movement, as internal resistance grows within the party.
This week, Ziggy Wyne – a social media blogger and supporter of musician turned legislator Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, Kyadondo East MP and leader of the People Power pressure group – surfaced three weeks after he was abducted by suspected security operatives. Ziggy who was dumped near dead in Kampala, went missing from his Nakulabye home three weeks ago. According to people that have seen him in Mulago hospital where he was taken by unknown people, Zigy Wyne’s body bore signs of grievous torture.
One of his eyes had been gouged out, some of his fingers were missing and the rest of his body bore burn marks and bruises, according to Mr. James Mubiru, the People Power coordinator for Lubaga North Constituency in the capital. Ziggy Wyne’s apparent crime has been to post updates on Bobi’s activities on his social media pages.
According to analysts, torturing Wyne and then letting him be seen in this state is deliberate and is a message intended to scare the restive youth from joining the growing ranks of those opposed to Museveni’s mismanagement and personalization of the country. “Under normal circumstances, it would be politically cheaper to permanently disappear a person who has been tortured to such a state.
“But the fact that they are willing to whether the storm this will generate about the regime’s human rights record shows that this is intended to be a message to a certain constituency,” said one commentator.
The youth have become an incurable headache to Museveni. They will constitute 70 percent of voters in 2021, yet they remain discontented despite the money he has been trying to channel to them through youth groups. The rise of Bobi Wine who defied the traditional political formations to win the Kyadondo East seat as an independent in 2017 has emboldened youth who see nothing to lose in challenging Museveni, and everything to gain if they can wrest power from him.
Museveni’s response has been characteristic. He has fallen back to his default mode of projecting violence as a tool of control. In this he has not spared even those youth groups of dissenters within his own. Phoebe Oprah Kiddu learnt that the hard way after regime agents plucked her off the streets on June 24. They held her in captivity for 25 days, before dumping her near her Makerere home where a family member luckily discovered her.
A member of NRM and chairperson of NRM for Justice, a youth pressure group aligned to Museveni’s NRM, she had imagined that she was safe from the excesses of the regime. She is also the NRM publicity Secretary for the Kawempe South Constituency in Kampala.
On that day however, men wearing Idi Amin State Research Bureau era type dark glasses accosted her and forced her into a waiting Toyota Premio. Alongside her friends, Kiddu had planned to participate in a procession to the British High Commission in Kampala where they would hand over a petition protesting the mismanagement of the country. The group is also opposed to Museveni’s sole candidature as the party flag bearer in 2021.
During her captivity she was held tied hand and feet on a chair in a dark room without food or water for three days. She was beaten, doused with cold water and suspended head down from the ceiling. She was told she would not leave the room alive unless she ‘cooperated.’
Her tormentors only relented a little when they mistook her monthly menses, triggered by the torture, for a miscarriage. It was only then that her hands were untied and she was given a bucket and water to clean up. Nearly a month after she was reported missing, she was abandoned near Makerere University Primary School on July 19. She is still receiving medical treatment but the police claim they don’t have any clues to trace her attackers.
All these incidents targeting the youth fit into a pattern where Museveni is trying to use scare tactics to ward off growing opposition. Last August, at the peak of a by-election to replace slain Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga, Bobi Wine’s driver Yasin Kawuma was shot dead. To cover up the crime, the regime feigned at attack on Museveni’s convoy during which the rear windshield of one of his armored personal transports was ripped out.
More than a hundred men and women were severely tortured, and are on trial for that alleged offence. Bobi Wine himself was subjected to such grim torture that for several days he was not presentable, even to members of his family.
Museveni and his regime are running amok.