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Ugandan anti-corruption activists arrested for distributing flyers

(HRNJ-Uganda/IFEX) - 4 February 2013 - The police have arrested nine anti-corruption activists and detained them at Wandegeya police station in Kampala for distributing anti-corruption materials at Makerere University on 4 February 2013. Those arrested included: Bishop Zac Niringiye, Emmanuel Kitamirike, Nuwagaba, Brian Atuhaire, Asani Kyegula, Sebide Ismail, Kitonsa Allan, Andyagasha John and Kinyonyi Issa. They were charged with 'inciting violence' and were released on police bonds after spending over seven hours barefoot in a police cell.

This is the third time that members of an anti-corruption civil society group are arrested and questioned by police for distributing anti-corruption news bulletins dubbed 'Black Monday,' and other materials aimed at creating awareness and fighting against rampant corruption in Uganda.

The February 'Black Monday' newspaper edition targets youth in formal educational institutions, with the central theme of involving them in the fight against corruption. In November 2012, the police cordoned off a hired venue and blocked activists from using it to launch the Black Monday Movement – a campaign against escalating cases of high-profile corruption scandals in the country, especially in the office of the Prime Minister, that saw over Shs 20 billion stolen, resulting in the suspension of donor aid to Uganda.

The Executive Director of the Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda, Cissy Kagaba, told HRNJ-Uganda that the arrests are signs that the government condones corruption. “This shows that there is no government commitment to fight corruption. That is why anti-corruption activists are being persecuted,” she said. Arthur Larok, the Country Director of Action Aid Uganda said that there was effective legal representation and solidarity from NGO leaders and media outside of the police station until the activists were released.

“They are being interrogated over what they were distributing” the spokesperson for the Kampala Metropolitan Police, Ibin Senkumbi, told HRNJ-Uganda. Judith Nabakooba, the national police spokesperson, said she was not aware of the arrest.

"Such arrests are a clear indication that freedom of assembly, speech and expression are under direct attack by the very police force that is mandated to safeguard them for the benefit of all Ugandans. The police [should] desist from being used as a coercive force to all people with dissenting views," said HRNJ-Uganda's National Coordinator, Wokulira Ssebaggala.

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