By Faith Nyasuguta
Two renowned Ugandan opposition legislators have been charged in line with a series of murders by machetes, a move their advocates called “a political persecution.”
According to police officers, villagers in the Masaka region have been tormented by gangs that have hacked about 30 elderly people to death in a span of two months.
The deceased were mostly killed at night in their homes.
Lawmakers Muhammad Ssegirinya and Allan Sewanyana of the National Unity Platform (NUP) faced three charges of murder and one on attempted murder.
“They denied all the charges… this is political persecution by Museveni’s military regime,” he said.
Adding, “We condemn in strongest terms the use of a skewed judicial process to meet political goals of a party in power.”
Fred Enanga, the Ugandan police mouthpiece had earlier revealed that a number of suspects who had already been charged or detained over the killings said the MPs has mobilized the ambushes “to cause fear in the population and cause people to hate the government”.
The duo is allied to the opposition party, National Unity Platform (NUP) of musician turned politician Bobi Wine.
Wine had moved to court in January to challenge President Yoweri Museveni in the disputed presidential polls.
The duo is currently in police custody at the ill-famed Kitalya maximum security prison near Kampala until September 15.
Robert Kyagulanyi alias Wine in his response made claims that the fresh accusations were part of the president’s conspiracy to defame the opposition.
“When the president said recently (the) opposition was behind the killings we thought it was a bad joke. But when the police summoned our MPs, we knew the grand plan by (the) regime to implicate NUP leaders in the killings was being implemented,” he said.
In an August presser, Museveni dubbed those behind the killings as “pigs” and promised that they would be ultimately defeated.
ELDERLY FLEE HOMES
In the January polls, Museveni won a sixth term and Wine, who has for a while been targeted by authorities, came second. Wine insists that the polls were rigged.
“No matter what Museveni’s regime does, one day Uganda will be liberated and those framed for crimes because they are from the opposition will be freed,” Wine said.
Residents of Masaka area, which is on the southwest of Kampala, the capital , had called on the state to halt the ambushes and killings.
“As we mourn our relatives who have been killed, we live in fear of being killed by the machete-wielding gangs,” Sarah Kasujja, 45, said.
Kasujja is a small trader whose 81-year-old grandfather was murdered by the gangs. “Some elderly people who have been living alone… have fled their homes for safety in towns,” she said.
“Government should take the blame for not defending us against the killers. The army and police have been deployed but they came too late.”
Similarly the Uganda National Council for Older Persons boss, Charles Isabirye, said the series of murders was a “shock to the nation”.
“For someone to kill old people who are living quiet lives in their homes is unbelievable,” he said.
“We demand the government to ensure protection for the older people in the countryside and the people behind (the killings) should be identified and punished.”