Police in Fort Portal in Western Uganda has come under pressure from rights defenders, for allegedly directing an assault on one Gerald Kankya, by unknown thugs.
Kankya, an activist working with the Twerwaneho Listeners Club (TLC), a community based governance organization in Fort-Portal, Western Uganda, was allegedly attacked, assaulted and battered by about 30 club-wielding men along Lugard Road in Fort Portal town on the afternoon of 23rd January 2015.
A European Union Human Rights activist Award winner for 2011, Kankya says that as he returned from a lunch break with two other friends, a gang of men, clad in ‘Queen Mother Best Kemigisa Nursery, Primary and Vocational Schools traffic reflector jackets, accosted them in the presence and on orders of the Fort Portal District Police commander Kahebwa Geoffrey and another police officer identified as Rwatooro.
“We tried to run towards Voice of Tooro radio station thinking that the presence of many people would prevent the men from attacking us. Before we could move inside the radio station, the gang of men grabbed me, hit me with their clubs, some boxed me, repeatedly kicked me, and attempted to grab a file I had in my hand which contained a number of TLC documents,” he said.
“During the scuffle, all my colleagues were too scared and ran away leaving me on the ground swarmed by the gang of men. The people around responded by attempting to attack the men who had hit me several times.”
According to a statement released by Human Rights Network for Journalists, [HRNJ]-Uganda, Kankya sustained bruises and lost a tooth.
He says he reported the matter to the police at Fort Portal under case reference number 38/23/01/2015 and was given a police medical form to take to a government regional hospital for examination and medication.
“On returning the form to police, the officers refused to record his statement claiming they were under strict orders from the DPC not to record a statement from him or anyone from TLC on charges related to assault,” states the document.
URNJ National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala condemned the police’s act of violence, “The police force is mandated by law to keep law and order, to protect persons and their property. It is unfortunate that the DPC feels no sense of accountability or responsibility in this matter,” he said.
When contacted by the journalists’ body, the DPC Kahebwa reportedly denied involvement, “Did Kankya say that I beat him up? If he was beaten by police officers, I am responsible, but if he was beaten by his fellow thugs and fools like him, then I am not accountable. In fact he is the one who beat up people because we have assault complaints against him”.
HRNJ-Uganda condemns any form of violence against individuals. The police force is mandated by law to keep law and order, to protect persons and their property. It is unfortunate that the DPC feels no sense of accountability or responsibility in this matter. We call upon the police leadership to ensure that Kankya’ statement is recorded and full scale investigations commissioned into this matter.