Do you remember Eric Mutasiga, a headteacher who was shot by the Local Defense Units (LDUs) in Mukono during the Covid-19 lockdown? His crime was defending a ‘chapati guy' (name withheld) one of his employees working at a chapati stall right in front of Eric’s retail shop where he earned his supplementary income to fend for his family. The men who ruthlessly ended his life still live freely, roaming the streets of Mukono like it is business as usual. The search for justice by the family has been arduous. The police keep tossing them around asking them to return another time each time they appear at Mukono Police station. This is meant to frustrate them until they get tired and give up.
Local Defense Units (LDUs) is an armed group of civilians created by the government to support the police and army in ‘boosting’ security in areas with limited police or military presence.
On the fateful day of 4th April 2020 at 7 pm, Eric Mutasiga was shot at his store, outside his home, as he confronted the men in green who violently detained one of his employees, a young man who worked at the chapati stall in front of the store. According to Viola, Eric’s wife, the LDU officers had a stench of alcohol on them, they were drunk. When Eric asked them why they were assaulting the young man, they asked him what his relationship with the young man was, before he could answer, one of the officers shot him in the left thigh right in front of his children, wife, and other bystanders. After this happened, the LDU officers swiftly pulled the young man with them onto a motorcycle and rode away while beating him.
What did the police do? The police arrived at the crime scene moments later and asked the family to go to the station to identify the suspects. The suspects were identified only to send them back to the community where they continued to terrorize citizens like many other officers across the country during the lockdown times.
Eric was taken to Mukono Diocese Hospital and referred to Mulago referral hospital where he died due to the injuries sustained from the shooting six weeks later.
A year later, there has been no justice for Eric and his family yet his death has had an enormous effect on his family being the main breadwinner. Eric was a schoolteacher with three young children whom he supported through his work and business. Viola, Eric’s wife, and mother Joyce have to take care of the family while they battle the grief and trauma of losing their dear one.
They have lost confidence in the police and judicial system yet they still hope somehow, their family can be taken care of to help the children survive.
In her words, Joyce, Eric’s mother says, “I would like to have justice for my son's death. I would like the government to compensate for my son because he was still a young man in his youth. They should at least get the family support for their health, medical and education until they have grown up because it is overwhelming for me and his wife”.
Viola Eric’s wife also says, “I want the police to take care of the children and support the family because they are the reason that they lost their father. The children are still haunted by the incident and run away at the sight of any gunmen”.
Eric’s story is just one of the many stories of security forces brutality and misuse of power.
David Kibuuka was shot and killed by police in 2019 while at a peaceful demonstration where community members were demanding that a local factory stop disposing of waste in the drainage channels which was causing flooding. Davis' widow has persistently pushed for justice even through the Uganda Human Rights Commission in vain.
Hajara Khalid is also another victim of police brutality. She was unfairly detained for supporting an opposition leader for the recently concluded presidential elections. Hajara was beaten and severely tortured while in police custody. She continues to suffer reproductive health complications yet she has no resources to support her treatment.
Solidarity Uganda through the Rapid response network has supported several victims of repression through solidarity visits and assistance. Our rapid response department continues to implore all possible measures through which we can challenge the continued violations and abuses of human rights. With collaborative support from the different allies and partners of Solidarity Uganda that boost our rapid response support system, we have been able to provide the necessary support needed by victims of oppression. Through our documentation series, we have registered an overwhelming number of requests pertaining to the need for the department’s support for Activists, human rights defenders, and victims of human rights violations usually perpetrated by individuals and state organs. Most needs fall under legal, financial, medical, and psychological assistance plus the need for solidarity.
The COVID-19 pandemic not only affected our health and wellbeing but also created fertile ground for the abuse of human rights and rule of law. The recently concluded elections also made it easy for the state to infringe on people's freedoms and rights. We continue to implore and support HRDs and activists to persistently fight on as together, we defend and empower the most vulnerable while building better communities and ultimately a better country.
We continue to grow our network of allies and empower our communities to push back against all kinds of oppression meted on them. Injustices like those committed against Eric, David, and Hajara must never go unpunished. We all deserved to feel safe in our homes and country at large