By Charles Kamya Ssentamu
Museveni is once again in a big fix as his reckless and murderous police force fails to account for a suspect they took into custody on speculative charges, more than two years ago. And matters would have been probably hushed up if the victim was one of the thousands of Ugandans that are incarcerated by the incompetent security system that first arrests one and then finds a charge on which to hold them.
The Uganda Police claims that Abdul Sandir, a Somali national it first arrested alongside 18 others on charges of terrorism in 2014, escaped from one of their notorious safe houses about two weeks ago. The alleged escape however raises more questions than answers, since there has been no corresponding internal action to subject Sandir’s keepers to disciplinary procedure.
In typical fashion where Ugandan security agencies are the law onto themselves, Sandir was first arrested and arraigned before court on terrorism charges in 2014. He was yanked from his hotel accommodation in the Somali refugee community of Kisenyi in central Kampala, alongside the 18 other suspects.
After screening, ten suspects including Sandir and two women were produced before court. Police claimed that during interrogation Sandir had confessed to a plot to carry out attacks against the Ugandan Parliament, a shopping mall, Makerere University and two other unnamed sites in Kampala.
Four years into the trial however, police could not back their claims, and court freed Sandir and another four suspects that had been held on the same charges. The Somali national’s freedom was however short-lived, since he was snatched by security operatives as soon as he stepped out of the courtroom in August 2018.
He has never been presented before a court since then, and has instead been held in one of the so-called safe houses – which in reality are notorious torture chambers where suspects are forced to confess to crimes they never committed.
Ugandans familiar with the Sandir case and the dreadful modus operandi of the country’s security agencies were taken aback by a story that appeared as a lead in the 4th Feb issue of the Daily Monitor, overshadowing even the lightening visit of Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu.
Authored by a well-known police hack masquerading as a journalist, the story was clearly intended to capture attention.
But why, wondered observers, would a system known for keeping secrets want an unflattering story about the loss of a “prime” suspect out in the public domain? And why would only one of the hundreds of so-called crime reporters, and more so from Daily Monitor be the one to get the “scoop”? More importantly, the story, which claimed the prison break had happened ten days earlier, did not give any detail of the internal reaction to the event. That is, beyond a typical statement such as: “a manhunt for Sandir has been launched, and investigations into how he escaped from the guarded facility are ongoing.”
Several theories have since emerged about this bizarre tale. Most commentators believe that Sandir possibly succumbed and died after prolonged torture in efforts to get him to own up to a crime he never committed. Being an international figure as a result of the charges with which he was framed, Uganda cannot afford the consequences of admitting that a foreign national held on speculative charges died in its hands.
During the initial trial, police had presented explosives and suicide vests that they claimed had been recovered from the suspects’ hotel rooms. Yet that obviously trumped up “hard” evidence, could not stand to the scrutiny of the courts.
While outsiders might be tempted to look at this as an isolated incident involving a foreigner, this is the painful reality for hundreds of foreign nationals and thousands of Ugandans that the Museveni terror state incarcerates for years on end, and often fails to account for.