NBS TV’’s The Frontline took a dramatically hot twist last night when President Museveni apologist Andrew Mwenda and Information Minister Baryomunsi clashed over the government’s handling of opposition party NUP. Specifically, the two Museveni men disagreed over government’s linkage of NUP to the recent bijambiya murders in Masaka which culminated into the arrest of NUP legislators Allan Aloysious Ssewanyana and Kawempe North’s Muhammad Ssegirinya.
The clash followed news of the re-arrest of MP Ssewanyana by security operatives moments after he had been released from kigo prisons. The MP’s re-arrest was confirmed by his lawyer Erias Lukwago who took to his facebook wall to reveal; “Horrible!!!…Hon. Allan Ssewanyana has been kidnapped at gunpoint at the entrance of Kigo prisons by gun-trotting operatives shortly after his release by prisons authorities. He has been whisked away in a drone to an unknown destination, rendering the court order nugatory,”
The news seemed to have irked Mwenda, who then tore into NRM, likening it to past regimes like obote’s, which the NRM has perennially accused of perpetuating injustices and human rights abuses against ugandans thus even leading to the popular NRA 5-year guerilla war. “Right now you’re behaving like Obote that you criticize. An MP is an important person who can’t run anywhere. Why don’t you first collect information and then arrest?” Mwenda said. Mwenda’s concern seemed to have been evoked by the ensuing rumors in which the general public quickly spread word that the MP had been kidnapped by unidentified gunman and whisked away in a drone.
This rumor was however only quelled after the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) came out to won the said Kayihura-style operation and also confirmed having the MP in their custody.
“We have him and he has not been kidnapped as some people are writing. He is safe but will have to answer some more questions,” the UPDF Spokesperson said.
However, despite Mwenda and some other Ugandans’ concern, an unapologetic Baryomunsi defended government actions, assuring Mwenda that granting one bail is no guarantee against re-arrest.
“Granting you bail doesn’t mean you can’t be rearrested. Maybe during the bail application more information came out. The only thing we are against is him being tortured. He can be arraigned again in court,” Baryomunsi said.
Commenting on the Masaka Bijambiya murders, Mwenda poked holes in government’s insistence that NUP was behind the chaos as well as the glaring lapses in handling the matter. “The government is accusing NUP of spearheading the murders in Masaka. If the man is guilty it is better to leave him so that you can monitor him and tap his phones to collect more evidence,” Baryomunsi said.
Mwenda’s remarks came on the backdrop of widespread public opinion that the murders could have been instigated by government as a cover to decimate or possibly settle political scores with NUP which garnered over 70% of the presidential vote in the last general elections. However, government has vehemently denied such a narrative.
In fact, hinting on this same issue, Baryomunsi replied; “we have not said NUP is responsible for the murders. If we were going after NUP leaders, Allan Ssewanyana and Muhammad Ssegirinya are not the biggest in NUP.”
Ssewanyana’s re-arrest means the NUP MPs will spend more time in the coolers despite the high court having given them cash bail of shs20m each on September 20, 2021.
The legislators’ lawyers decried that the state resorted to playing delaying tactics with the suspects’ files thus preventing their release. It is upon this that they applied for their release through court, which was granted on September 23. However, Ssegirinya could not leave prison due to absence of his surety Francis Zaake while Ssewanyana was rearrested immediately after release.