The United Nations (UN) human rights body has criticised the manner in which security forces broke up a gathering outside its Kampala office as the National Unity Platform (NUP) president, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu presented a petition against human rights violations in Uganda.
There were chaotic scenes outside the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights in Kampala when the military police descended on journalists injuring a number of them.
The security forces had earlier driven away NUP supporters that had accompanied Kyagulanyi to take the petition to the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR).
The petition was handed to the OHCHR representative in Uganda, Robert Kotchani at his office in Kampala.
While the police through its spokesman for Kampala metropolitan, Patrick Onyango claimed that the UN agency allowed him to go with three people, the OHCHR in a statement said that the action by the security forces breached its agreements with the government of Uganda.
“The United Nations in Uganda wishes to deplore that prior to the meeting, members of the Uganda Military Police used excessive force to prevent a number of persons accompanying the NUP delegation from accessing OHCHR premises,” the statement reads in part.
“This behaviour contravenes the agreement with the Government of Uganda regarding the safety and security of UN premises, personnel and guests as well as national and international commitments.”
The UN asked the government to immediately investigate this incident and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.
Kyagulanyi arrived at the UN offices located at Prince Charles Drive in Kololo, shortly before 1 p.m, and of all the cars that were following him, only his was allowed access.
As soon as his car entered, the security that was deployed around the premises directed other vehicles to leave the venue.
Immediately, the armed men pounced on some of the NUP leaders, smashing the windscreen of the Makindye East MP-elect Derrick Nyeko before the military withdrew from the scene leaving security in the hands of the police.
The police then mounted a human blockade near the Ethiopian Embassy barring anybody from accessing the UN High Commission for Human Rights Offices.
The journalists then camped just behind the human blockade waiting for Kyagulanyi to leave the building which was quite some distance from where they were.
For about 30 minutes it appeared as though there was an understanding between the police and the journalists that this is the point that won’t be crossed.
Meanwhile, two military vehicles with about 20 officers returned to the scene and then drove away towards the UN office.
After about 10 minutes, the same vehicles returned where the journalists together with some newly elected MPs and bloggers who normally move with Kyagulanyi had pitched camp.
As soon as the vehicles stopped, the commanding officer jumped out of it and then thundered. “All of you get out of here.”
But before he could finish the sentence, the military had already pounced on journalists and everybody else, indiscriminately whipping them with batons.
Among those most injured were NTV journalist, John Cliff Wamala who was hit on the head causing a deep cut. Others are Josephine Namakumbi (NBS TV) Irene Abalo Otto (Daily Monitor), Timothy Murungi and Henry Ssekanjako both employees of The New Vision and Amina Nalule of Galaxy FM among others.
Having received the petition, OHCHR is expected to share copies with the government and United Nations headquarters for appropriate action to be taken.