About 30 security operatives on Wednesday allegedly stormed and ransacked the office of opposition political party the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) in Kasese District, South Western Uganda confiscating journalists’ gadgets and taking with them documents from the office.
The confiscated items include two smartphones belonging to Eric Mwesigye and his trainee, a one Amos, a camera memory card and two other phones belonging to Kasese FDC official, Saul Maathe.
According to Eric Mwesigye, he was interviewing Matte about the status of the ongoing campaign by the FDC party to petition the International Criminal Court (ICC) when over ten (10) plain-clothed security operatives stormed the office, took away phones and forcefully removed the memory card from the camera which was on the tripod stand being used for recording the interview.
“I cannot tell the security agency to which those people are attached but the speed and tenacity with which they removed my card from the camera and the ransacking of the office in broad daylight shows that these were not ordinary street goons,” said Mwesigye.
Mwesigye says he reached out to the Rwenzori East Police Spokesperson Twesigye Vincent about the incident but was advised to record a statement at police. He adds that he reported to the District Internal Security Officer, Lt Johnson Tashoba who promised to investigate the matter.
However, the Rwenzori East Police Spokesperson Twesigye Vincent denied having knowledge of the alleged incident and could not say anything about it.
Maathe says the security personnel without identifying themselves started searching the offices and scattered the items therein. He said it was after they saw them in possession of firearms especially pistols that they realised they were security operatives.
He says the security officials confiscated and took with them a series of documents from the office including petition forms to the ICC, party’s minutes for the different meetings, his National Identity Card and his phone.
Maathe says they are yet to get information from the office the regional police commander to explain why the party’s offices were raided. He says the invasion is an indicator of a continued shrinking space for political parties to execute their duties.
This incident comes on the heels of other similar happenings involving different journalists in Kasese in the month of September 2019. Two journalists, Joel Kaguta, a Daily Monitor correspondent, and Dennis Mumbere, working with Messiah Radio, were arrested separately on 24th and 26th September respectively for allegedly covering Opposition party activities.
Kasese district FDC chairperson Geoffrey Sibendire Bigogo condemned the raid and said it is a suffocation of the development of multi-party democracy in the country.
Bigogo argued that the best thing the security would have done if they needed any documents from the FDC would have been to secure a search warrant from court so that they get legal access to the party premises and subsequently all party documents in the office.
The district boss said the raid confirms the security agencies want to intimidate FDC supporters ahead of the 2020-2021 general elections. He said the party would stay strong and committed to the cause for better governance in the country.
Gilbert Muhanguzi, also an employee of Messiah Radio was on September 26, 2019 arrested at the magistrate’s court while filming his colleague, Robert Kule, a reporter with Bukedde TV, who was appearing before Rukooki Chief Magistrate’s Court.