Ugandans over the weekend took to social media to vent anger and frustration following the sanctioning of Prisons boss Dr.Johnson Byabashaija.
The United States Department of the Treasury announced on Friday that Mr Byabashaija, who has been the Commissioner General of Prisons since 2005, would be sanctioned on grounds that prison authorities routinely torture prisoners and engage in other gross human rights violations.
However, the announcement triggered an avalanche of bipartisan criticism on social media with majority defending Byabashaija’s human rights record and arguing that the US is hitting the wrong target.
As the head of Uganda’s correctional facility, Byabashaija is only at the tail end trial process-with accusations of suspects torture rife at the point of arrest by Police and investigations by other security agencies.
Security agencies like the Police, Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) and Internal Security Organisation (ISO) have been variously accused by human rights group of engaging in torture of suspects.
These accusations of torture, often made by suspects in court, always lay the blame at the feet of sister security agencies, but not Prisons authorities.
Such suspects are sometimes arraigned in court, with visible torture signs, before being remanded to Prison.
Suspects in the kidnap and murder of AIGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi told court that they were tortured by security operatives, not Prisons personnel.
Suspects in the trial of the kidnap and murder of Susan Magara and her driver also complained to court that they had been subjected to torture by security operatives during evidence gathering.
It should be noted that no suspects have been on court record accusing Prisons personnel of torture, thus making the US indictment of Byabashaija more baffling.
In the wake of the sanctions announcement, Ugandans kept to the defence of Byabashaija.
“I would be shocked if indeed torture happened (or was tolerated) in Prisons under Byabashaija. Sometime in 2016 at an embassy reception, I was talking to Byabashaija when he was confronted by Maria Burnett-then of Human Rights Watch asking to see some political prisoner who had allegedly been tortured. Turns out the suspects had been tortured by another agency….”tweeted journalist Kwezi Tabaro.
Seasoned crime and security journalist Andrew Bagala of the Daily Monitor also weighed in, tweeting that: “Everyone who has been in Uganda for some time would disagree with the State Department’s decision to sanction Byabashaija. He is a reasonable and an innocent person in this government. Accusing him of violating human rights is false. Rights abusers are known”
Seasoned law scholar and city advocate Edgar Tabaro revealed that he was in total shock over the allegations labeled towards the prison boss.
“Byabashaija is the least qualified for human rights violations in the Republic of Uganda. Independent human rights activists can testify.” Tabaro wrote on his X handle.