Uganda charges opposition MPs over machete killings
On Tuesday, two prominent Ugandan opposition MPs were accused in connection with a rash of brutal murders committed by machete-wielding gangs, a move their lawyer described as “political persecution.”
Villagers in the Masaka region have been terrorized by thugs who, according to authorities, have hacked to death up to 30 persons, mostly old people, in their houses at night in just two months.
MPs Muhammad Ssegirinya and Allan Sewanyana of the National Unity Platform (NUP) were charged with three charges of murder and one count of attempted murder before the Masaka magistrates court, according to their lawyer Elias Lukwago.
“They refuted all charges… this is political persecution by Museveni’s military administration,” he continued. “We strongly oppose the use of a biased judicial procedure to achieve political agendas of a ruling party.”
According to Ugandan police spokesman Fred Enanga, some individuals who have already been charged or imprisoned in connection with the killing sprees accused the MPs of planning the attacks “to generate fear in the populace and lead people to detest the government.”
The two men are members of the National Unity Platform (NUP) of former pop star turned politician Bobi Wine, who ran against Yoweri Museveni in a disputed election in January.
According to the lawyer, they were remanded in custody until September 15 at the notorious Kitalya high-security prison near Kampala.
Wine, whose actual name is Robert Kyagulanyi, claimed the claims were part of a government attempt to smear the opposition.
“We thought it was a sick joke when the president recently claimed that the opposition was behind the deaths. But when the police called our MPs, we realized (the) regime’s broad plan to link NUP leaders in the killings was being carried out “He stated.
Museveni referred to those responsible for the killings as “pigs” in a speech last month, vowing that they would be defeated.
Museveni was re-elected for a sixth term in an election that Wine, who finished second to the veteran leader and has been frequently targeted by the government, claims was manipulated.
“Regardless of what Museveni’s administration does, Uganda will be liberated one day, and those imprisoned for crimes committed because they are members of the opposition will be released,” Wine stated.
Residents in Masaka, southwest of Kampala, asked that the government take greater action to halt the rampaging killers.
“We live in fear of being killed by machete-wielding gangs while we grieve our family who have been killed,” said Sarah Kasujja, 45, a small trader whose 81-year-old grandfather was among the fatalities.
“Some older individuals who have been living alone… have moved to places for safety,” she told AFP.
“The government should be held accountable for failing to protect us from the assassins. The army and police were called in, but they arrived too late.”
Charles Isabirye, the head of Uganda’s National Council for Older People, called the wave of murders a “shock to the nation.”
“It’s incomprehensible that someone would kill elderly folks who live peacefully in their houses,” he told AFP.
“We demand that the government offer safety for the elderly in the countryside and that those responsible for (the deaths) be identified and punished.”
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