How security agencies used OWC to trap unsuspecting Kampala youths

In days leading to President Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Museveni’s sixth term inauguration, security agencies launched operations to arrest youthful opposition supporters “who were planning to disrupt” the swearing-in ceremony.

The police through its spokesman, Fred Enanga, had days earlier, claimed that the police had credible information about a group of youths that planned to attack Kampala with petrol bombs.

His UPDF counterpart, Brig. Flavia Byekwaso had displayed before the press, placards that she claimed had been confiscated from a “place where they were being printed for distribution around the country.”

According to the police, about 150 youths were rounded up in Kampala ahead of Museveni’s May 12, 2021, swearing-in ceremony but the majority of these were hoodwinked by security operatives, to attend sensitisation meetings on operation wealth creation (OWC) – a government program intended to end household poverty.

Kawempe Division had most people who were arrested for allegedly planning to disrupt President Museveni’s swearing-in ceremony. Their relatives are crying out to the government to free their people because “they are victims who were duped into attending a youth wealth creation meeting and were instead arrested.”

Peter Clever Kibirige, the youth chairperson of Bwaise I parish in Kawempe division is among those that were rounded up by a combined force of operatives from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), Special Forces Command (SFC) and the police on Sunday, May 9.

Shockingly, Kibirige is a supporter of, and a mobiliser for the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, who according to his wife, Hanifa Hayati, received phone calls, asking him to mobilize youths for a meeting at Club Whispers in Kanyanya, a Kampala suburb.

Since that how he has previously been receiving instructions from his party leaders, he did not suspect anything bad.

Convinced, Kibirige set out to mobilise the youths, allegedly telling them that meeting he was taking them to was called to sensitize them on a government fund for youth projects under OWC.

He mobilised about 150 youths from different zones of Kawempe division for the meeting that never happened. Instead, military personnel raided the venue and arrested whoever was there.

It is hard to believe that any organiser of a clandestine plot would gather such a large group of people in a public place to issue instructions on how to subvert the state.

“My husband did not return home on the same day nor did all his friends he had mobilized from different zones. The next morning we got information the army and police arrested all of them, on charges of committing treason by organizing a parallel swearing-in of Robert Kyagulanyi,” Hayati said.

Most of the suspects were mobilised from the zones of Bishop Mukwaya I, Lule zone, Kiyindi zone and Kalerwe zones in Bwaise 1.

It was after being rounded up that they realized that they had been hoodwinked by some opportunists within the security circles who took advantage of their joblessness to trick them into a fake OWC meeting and get them arrested.

“The conmen who serve as informers hoodwinked hungry and jobless youth into gathering at particular place to be registered for benefitting from wealth creation projects but were instead sold them as troublemakers plotting to swear in Bobi Wine as president and also disrupt President Museveni’s swearing at Kololo,” a relative to some of the detainees said.

If this claim by the victims’ families is true, then the informers succeeded in conning both security into wasting time and resources apprehending innocent people and the victims into losing their freedom.

Hayati, a mother of four, could not hold back her tears as she narrated her ordeal from a fruitless five-day search for her husband.

Amal Ssebambulidde alias King, only survived because he was down with malaria and typhoid. He would have joined his friends such as Ignatius Kasujja, Joseph Kalule, Isaac Ssali, Elvis Lukoma, and Selecta Josey had all attended the same meeting with the hope of getting government support.

An employee at Club Whispers Kanyanya who spoke on the condition of anonymity said they saw soldiers and police jumping out of vans and police patrol cars and surrounding the whole club at around 4:00 pm before they started arresting all the youths who had gathered and drove them off.

Kampala Metropolitan deputy police spokesperson, Luke Owoyesigyire confirmed that the group which was arrested in an operation at Whispers Club Kanyanya saying many people were arrested from the same place together with others who were picked from different areas last weekend, would be screened and suspicious characters would be taken to court.

Sources with the security sources however say that police have limited access to the suspects since most of them are being detained in military cells particularly at CMI headquarters in Mbuya.

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