Police in Mbarara have failed to produce in court three people who were last week arrested for allegedly conducting a mock funeral for President Yoweri Museveni.
The three are 20-year-old Abert Nangumya, a student at Bishop Stuart University, Rodgers Asiimwe, 26, and Maxi Muhumuza, a spokesperson of Ankole Kingdom. They were on Thursday found in possession of a coffin with an inscription “Rest in Peace Museveni,” and a portrait of the president.
In the same coffin, were names of Justice Minister Kahinda Otafiire and several Members of Parliament.
According to police, the suspects were protesting against a ploy by government to amend Article 102 of the 1995 Constitution which puts a ceiling on the age of the person holding office of the president at 75. They face charges of sedition that carries a sentence of up to five years in prison if found guilty. The case is registered under file number SD 06/06/07/2017.
Early today, a group of friends and relatives had gathered at the Mbarara High Court where the suspects were expected to appear but this did not materialise as the suspects were nowhere to be seen.
Alex Mukanga is one of those who thought that the suspects would be brought to court. He says that he was disappointed to see that the police brought other suspects leaving the group behind.
Bright Muhumuza, another concerned resident says that the behaviour of the police in this matter indicates that they are interested it. He says that he and his group have since Thursday made several attempts to visit the suspects and talk to them in addition to securing bond for them in vain.
Medard Bahumwire, a friend to Rodgers Asiimwe, one of those arrested, faults the police for denying him and other people a chance to visit the suspects which he says is unacceptable. Bahumwire says that holding the suspects beyond 48 hours and failure to produce them in court tantamount to a human rights violation.
Rwizi regional police spokesperson Samson Kasasira, however, told URN that the police are not playing any games as alleged. He says the police are waiting for a file on the matter from the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
He says that once a response is received from the DPP, the police will take the necessary action.
The protest comes at the backdrop of reports that a section of National Resistance Movement – NRM party legislators have mooted a plan to amend the constitution to allow President Museveni to contest for the presidency in 2021 and that the constitutional amendment bill on the same has already been gazetted.
Under the current provision in Article 102(b) of the constitution, President Museveni would be above 75 years and therefore ineligible to contest for the seat. Born in 1944 and in power since 1986, Museveni will hit 75 in 2019, two years before the general elections.