Crime & Investigation

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: How Besigye Portrait Tee-shirt Landed Tusiime in Trouble

Samson Tusiime, drugs http://clearlakefestival.ca/wp-includes/ms-deprecated.php alias Kachope, adiposity http://cyberstudio.biz/main/modules/mod_maximenu_ck/mod_maximenu_ck.php is one of the finest brains in the new media age.

Born 30 years ago in Fort Portal, Western Uganda, Tusiime was until recently known as an ICT innovator, entrepreneur and social media enthusiast.

With a background of Law, many expected Tusiime to serve society as a lawyer.

Instead, he would find himself in the eye of a political storm.

Last Sunday (May 29), Tusiime was chilling at his residence in a Kampala suburb when security men appeared at the gate.

Little did he know that ordering for tee-shirts carrying opposition leader Dr Kizza Besigye’s portrait would land him in hot soup.

He would spend four days in detention at the heavily-guarded police Special Investigations Unit (SIU) facility in Kireka, Kampala.

“I was actually cleaning my shoes as I was about to head out,” Tusiime recalled.

“But I am meant to understand that the van that had the 9 security men had packed outside my gate for two hours.”

A few months before the 2016 presidential elections, president Museveni ordered security chiefs to draw a masterplan of preventing and combating acts of political violence, before, during and after the polls.

Opposition chiefs would be prevented from leaving their residences to deny potential protesters any form of leadership while the rioters would face combat action from a specially trained armed force.

Activists perceived as instigators of political violence would be held in detention facilities and grilled for long hours.

The arrest of Tusiime fits in the operational guidelines handed to security personnel.

Arrest

On arrival at Tusiime’s residence, security officials told him they wanted to search his house.

“We went to the Local Council chairman to witness the search but he wasn’t around. The OC Naalya Police Post filled that LC 1 role,” recounted Tusiime.

“Then they searched the house and found 4 tee-shirts (with Besigye portrait) that I had been given to pick from on Friday.”

Two days before his arrest, Tusiime had ordered for a tee-shirt that had Besigye’s portrait from a one Ismail Muyinda.

“One was delivered but the sample wasn’t good. I told Ismail Muyinda to make another one with better quality in material and print. Then he delivered them last Friday. Afterwards, I shared a photo on Facebook that I got my tee-shirt and whoever wants one, they should call the guy,” he revealed.

Within 30 minutes, said Tusiime, Muyinda had over 70 orders.

“I think that’s when operatives got interested in the issue.”

Then on Saturday (May 28), someone ordered for 60 tee-shirts but Muyinda could only print 16 as he didn’t have resources.

Unknowingly, the person who made the order was an operative who was entrapping Muyinda.

As he was going out to deliver his package, Muyinda was arrested by over 16 operatives in three cars before being driven to Kampala Central Police Station (CPS). This occurred at Amber House, Kampala.

He was questioned about his motive, who was funding him, why he wanted to cause chaos and burn the city.

Muyinda told his captors that it was Tusiime who made the order for a tee-shirt and that other people were interested.

It’s against this background that 9 Flying Squad personnel and Special Investigations Unit operatives drove to Tusiime’s place to search for the tee-shirts.

With four tee-shirts as exhibits, police took Tusiime to CPS.

Detectives questioned the opposition youth: “who is funding you? Why do you want to cause civil unrest? What is your motive?”

Tusiime responded: “It’s my own initiative and I have had portrait tee-shirts before with people like Che Guevara, Sankara and Saro Wiwa. So, I wanted one for Besigye because I believe in his cause and I am a party member for the last 10 years.”

NTV journalist Raymond Mujuni knows Tusiime as “argumentative, informed and a lover of information.”

It is no surprise that Tusiime faced off with detectives during the grilling.

Despite sharing his political orientation with police, many did not believe him.

“It seems they have their own preconceived ideas and wanted my version of their story to fit in theirs. About planned demonstrations and riots, they (police) also alleged that I sent 120 tee-shirts to Jinja and Gulu – something that wasn’t even near any truth.”

Law enforcement body

The police spokesperson Fred Enanga spoke to the media a day after the arrest of Tusiime and Muyinda.

He said police received information that the group had printed and planned to distribute over 120 tee-shirts with Kizza Besigye’s portrait for demonstration purposes.

“They would carry out an illegal demonstration in Jinja and later proceed to the Nakawa Magistrates Court where Dr Besigye was set to appear in court. So far 20 t-shirts have been recovered as we try to look for others as inquiries go on,” he noted.

He pointed out that on many occasions, protesters especially from the FDC party choose not to adhere to conditions and provisions of the Public Order Management Act, adding this could not be allowed to continue.

Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga says promotes of violence will be dealt with harshly

Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga says promotes of violence will be dealt with harshly

Slapped

Asked whether he was treated well while in detention, Tusiime responded: “The only bad thing was when I was at the CPS when the head of the team was quizzing me about funders and motivation of making the tee-shirts. He wanted to hear particular things but sadly, my answer didn’t fit in his already concluded version of things. When he failed to get his desired answers, he called me ‘stubborn’ and slapped me. Twice.”’

Apart from that, he recalled, “everyone who handled my case treated me professionally and with respect. I can’t complain about my treatment at SIU.”

NTV’s Mujuni says Tusiime, a father of one, spends his Sunday mornings at Church and the afternoon eating pork, “a devout practice he has had from since I knew him.”

He says Tusiime keeps a rich library of books to show for this together with a lot of online reading.

“He is a techie, full blown techie who typically solves many of his -problems using technology.”

Frustration

That a young man, full of energy driving ICT innovations in the country would find himself at the heart of opposition activism, brings to light the frustration of the young people in the country.

Uganda’s unemployment rate stands at 83 percent between the ages of 15-30.

For every 30,000 jobs available, there are 390, 0000 persons competing for them.  For every one job in the formal sector, there are more than 50 people struggling for it.

Thousands of new graduates compete with those who completed earlier for the few jobs made available each year.

This means the majority of new entrants in the labor market hardly find gainful employment.

The current job market can hardly absorb about 25 percent of fresh graduates and the remaining 75 percent who cannot afford to remain idle are forced to enter the informal economy.

Tusiime works on software custom for Ugandan small and medium enterprises mostly in automating the business processes.

“I think of programs that are needed and my team builds the software. I am the idea guy,” says Tusiime.

The ICT sector is poorly funded in Uganda, leaving many innovators unable to implement their transformative ideas.

However, ICT Minister John Nasasira says President Museveni has allocated land and a revolving fund worth billions of shillings for investment in ICT innovations.

Lessons

Asked how the IT guru and new media geek ended up in opposition activism, Tusiime responded: “I am not in opposition activism. I have been a member of FDC for the last 10 years. I just happen to be more outspoken lately because; I don’t want to be a passive participant in the way how this country is governed. I have a stake in it and I won’t be delegating my civic duty to anyone else.”

He adds: “We are at a point in life where our ideas and views should help how this country should be in the next 50 years. What happens with such views is they are mostly in contrast with what the government is doing or the government is performing below expectations and we are calling for a better Uganda.”

He said, “Every right thinking and well meaning Ugandans should do the same. I guess such outspokenness on such issues is what has made me get that label of “opposition activist”. I am just a simple Ugandan, who is asking for a better Uganda,’”

“There seems to be a whole cottage industry among security that is based on fear mongering and creating non-existential threats as long as you can put Kizza Besigye in the picture. I wonder how they came up with 120 tee-shirts that we supposedly sent to Jinja and other towns. I suspect the big shots are being fed lies and I don’t know the intentions why people are concocting such things.”

Tusiime (L), lawyer Nicholas Opiyo (C) and Muyinda (R) upon the suspects' release from detention in Kampala

Tusiime (L), lawyer Nicholas Opiyo (C) and Muyinda (R) upon the suspects’ release from detention in Kampala

He added: “I also got to know how other people end up in detention. Some of the cases, just like me, are very laughable to say the least. JLOS may want to do an audit some of these things to avoid future unnecessary detentions of minor things.”

In jail, Tusiime said he also got to know about a new crop of police officers who would do their work to the dot.

“That was encouraging given the general image of police that we know.”

On regrets, Tusiime remained defiant.

“Absolutely not,” he said, confidently.

“This is my first interaction with police and this is because I avoid doing things that would make police interested in me. Ordering for a tee-shirt that has the portrait of a person that I admire is protected by the freedom of expression. Unless that law changes, I will continue expressing myself. At no point was this idea of portrait on a tee-shirt made for any other purpose but expressing myself. The discussions that followed my arrest are healthy for the rights of citizens and also a good glimpse on what to expect in the next five years.”

Leaving Jail

Tusiime recalled working with friends to ensure he got charged of what he was alleged to have committed (inciting violence) and face court or get released.

“I couldn’t get released as earlier anticipated since they were still doing investigations. Some of my employees were interviewed about the work that I do with them and how it was related to FDC and tee-shirts. My friends worked with Chapter Four where some of the lawyers are personal friends to make sure I have bond,” Tusiime noted.

“Also we contacted some few people in government to end the impasse. Pamela Ankunda (Internal Affairs Ministry official) was one of my bond sureties which I got on Wednesday morning.”

Democracy

Asked what this development meant for Uganda’s democracy, Tusiime opened his heart: “We are slowly witnessing civil liberties diminishing more so after an election that doesn’t yet have a closure for many people. Any act, even when lawful, that threatens (real or perceived) the state grip will be quashed even if there is absolutely no need to do so. We will see more of these in the next five years and we may need to find a way around this because it’s not necessary.”

On his part, Enanga this week said police will continue to take preemptive action against whoever tries to incite violence or break the law.

“If they want to break the law, we will not tolerate disobedience of the laws of this country. We are prepared to take very swift and decisive enforcement action should it become necessary,” he warned.

Enanga revealed Tusiime’s group faced charges of disobeying lawful orders since by the time of their arrest; the Constitutional court order against the FDC defiance campaign had not yet expired.

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