Bonny Ssemwanga was among the polling day supervisors that the National Unity Platform (NUP) deployed on January 14 in Bugabira parish, in Masaka City’s Nyendo – Mukungwe division. His assignment required him to visit the various polling stations in the parish to ensure that the opposition political party’s interests are safeguarded.
At Kyalugo polling station, he joined his colleagues to foil an alleged attempt by agents of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) to disorganise voting.
According to Michael Mulindwa Nakumusana, the Nyendo – Mukungwe division mayor-elect, NRM agents planned to stuff the ballot boxes at the polling station.
“Our boys were so vigilant that they failed all attempts by the NRM to put pre-ticked in the ballot boxes. They [NRM agents] tried to create a scene at that particular polling station and Ssemwanga came in and contained them,” Nakumusana said.
Angered, Claver Jumba, the NRM chairman in Bugabira made a phone call and before long, armed men arrived in a Toyota Premio, registration number UAS 124 Y and shot Ssemanda in the thigh before taking off.
Moments later, a Landcruiser registration number UAJ 050 U arrived at the scene and its occupants who appeared like soldiers of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF), picked the injured Ssemwanga and rushed him to Masaka Regional Referral Hospital.
The NRM chairman in Masaka, Peter Ssenkungu downplayed the involvement of the village NRM chairman arguing that it is unlikely that a lower level NRM chairperson can call soldiers into action.
“What I is that there is an NRM supporter in that village who was attacked by opposition supporters. He was strangled and hacked to near death and it is me who rushed him to Masaka hospital,” Ssenkungu said.
The incident Ssenkungu talks about allegedly happened on January 16, the day the Electoral Commission (EC) chairman, Justice Simon Byabakama formally declared Yoweri Museveni the winner of the January 14 presidential elections.
Gunfire rocked Masaka town on January 16 moments after Byabakama declared Museveni winner of the presidential elections with 58 percent while his closest challenger, music star Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu with 35 percent.
The shooting was prompted by protests that broke out in the newly created city as locals denounced the election results which they believe were manipulated to hand Museveni a sixth elective term of office.
The shooting claimed the lives of Jibril Bazanyanengo, Peter Ssebunya and another only identified as Ben, all residents of Nyendo-Mukungwe division.
The fourth victim, Grace Nakalyango, an expectant mother, was tortured by the security operatives near her home in Nyendo – Kasana.
Nakalyango was not among the protestors but the soldiers whipped her because she was wearing a red blouse, eye witnesses say.
For several hours she vomited blood until when Nakumusana sought clearance from the police that her neighbours rushed her to Rahman Medical Centre near Nyendo market.
“The doctors there discovered that she had lost a lot of blood and referred her to Masaka hospital for blood transfusion but she unfortunately died the following day,” Nakumusana said.
The Greater Masaka regional police spokesman, Muhammad Nsubuga refuted claims that Nakalyango was tortured by the security personnel saying that she was instead hit by a stray bullet. Nsubuga also claimed that one the dead was shot as he attempted to grab a gun from a soldier.
Besides the killings, scores more are still in hospital where they were rushed with bullets stuck in their bodies.
Frank Kayinga was seated outside his dry cleaning shop in Nyendo Block A zone when he got shot in the leg. He claims that by the time the protests broke out, he had left the garage where he works as a mechanic to check on his staff at the dry cleaning shop when he got shot.
Mathias Mpuuga, the Nyendo-Mukungwe MP said that they have been compiling a list of all the victims as they prepare to take on the UPDF and the police before the Uganda Human Rights Commission.
On his list so far is, Bashir Luwaga, Francis Kasule and Ben Lubega of Mukudde, Kayinga of Kinsadde cell, Nyendo and Francis Ssemwanga of Nakayiba near Masaka town.
Others are Francis Kaweesi Kitone, Betty Namugga and Godfrey Kasule, all residents of Nyendo-Ssenyange division.
George Lutamaguzi, a resident of Kiwaala village in Nyendo – Mukungwe division said that on the fateful day, operatives raided their area and beat-up people they suspected to be rioters.
“Many people around this area have got bruises on their bodies inflicted on them by security operatives that whipped them with cable wires and batons,” he said.
According to the police, the security forces had to respond with maximum force to subdue the protestors who had turned destructive.
Nsubuga, the police spokesman in Masaka, said that the protestors vandalized a number of security cameras that were recently installed in Nyendo as well as deflated the tires and shattered the windscreens of two police patrol pickups that had been deployed in the area.
Additional reporting by URN