I don’t think I can describe how my weekend was in a word.
It was good on Saturday – extremely exciting. I got to watch KCCA, a team I don’t support, lift the league. Despite being an SC Villa Fan for a decade, I was happy a deserving team had reaped the fruits of their sweat.
A few years ago, still under the old system of managing Kampala, KCC FC – as it was called then – struggled to do anything; ranging from paying players right down to putting water at the pitch side for them.
Saturday was a real testimony of growth. The team played against a struggling Sadolin Paints. The turf was everything standard international football is made of; artificial, well watered and green. There were no dodgy patches or unannounced holes waiting to swallow a player’s foot.
The pitch side was organised, the game was free for all fans and the crowd was electric.
KCCA was unveiling it’s new jersey – yellow with blue stripes – a proper fit on all its players. The match stewards wore it and capped it with their light green vests. Let’s also acknowledge that there were match stewards in the first place. And ball boys. And that the coach, Mike Mutebi, wore a suit.
With such precision in organisation, the reflection played out on the field. The club trusts its young talent. So much so, their backline averages 23 years and the entire squad averages 24 years of age. They also have, in their outfit, a 17 year old – Okello.
It took ten minutes for their flourishing possession and accuracy of passing to get one behind the net and if you didn’t believe them, they were back on the 22nd minute to prove their point with a second.
It was easy to believe their story of transformation. They had hired the best ; one, Mike Mutebi, as their coach, paid the price for the finest – like Sserunkuma, the top scorer who finished almost with twice as many goals as the next competitor.
The back end of KCCA FC’s administration was shockingly effective for a Ugandan football club. They crammed into a room on the sidelines of the field, typing away behind neatly organised PC’s, a game match sheet was availed in print, media tags were handed out by uniformed KCCA ushers. Everything about the game was amazing.
It brought to me the question of how far organising systems works in fixing problems.
Granted, KCCA isn’t perfect. They still have trouble attracting young fans, they have problems organising the digital department, their public branding is still whispering where it should shout and the club’s desire to win is visibly short cut by its dominance in the league but they are where no Ugandan club is daring to reach and that is – at a place of organised and functional systems.
I want to keep supporting SC Villa but KCCA presents a team that is easy to support and easy to grow with. It presents what every fan would long for, the joy of enjoying the beautiful game of football.
So, in the interim, I’ll support KCCA until the woes at Villa Park are sorted with proper administration and management structures.
There was a momentary pause from when he left his seat to pick a paper. The laughing in jest was muffled and eyes cast on him.
A small fire burned out three fat logs of wood warming a small circle that had gathered around it.
“This will be hard” Joel, the guy who’d stood up, said.
He skipped around briefly in excitement chanting some rambling before returning to a reflective pause on how he’d easily act out the word on the paper for his team.
About eight of them, some seated, others standing waited in anxiety, praying the clock didn’t tick off before they won this round of charades, another ten or thereabouts popped out snide remarks discouraging Joel even before he started.
The game of charades was like this. Two teams would square up against each other, a neutral judge would write out words on a paper that a member of the team would pick and act out for their team to guess the word in under a minute.
Joel’s was a phrase. A ‘dirty’ phrase.It needed the minds of his team to be as dirty too. A healthy serving of alcohol had been guaranteed on a table at the fireplace, whiskeys, gins, soft drinks and even flasks of tea were all on the menu.
So, in a giffy, he bent to the ground and acted out a sex scene and the guesses ran.
“Sex”, “Missionary style”, “Pleasure”. To all, Joel nodded in disagreement.
Then he stood up, flung a hand infront of himself and another behind, as you would ride a donkey, and ground his waist.
His team – and some of his opponents – burst out in laughter, the timer was forgotten, he went on and on and the laughing went from blithesome to buoyant down right to ground rolling.
Unable to continue the actions, Joel joined in on the laughter.
Soon the stories would be told about sexual encounters, experiences and how Joel had tried – but his team failed – to guess the word ‘dick-riding’.
That was the ultimate goal of the Koi Koi team. To travel the country and tell as many stories that would inspire people to see their own country. The phrase ‘Koi Koi’ itself, dominated on the internet by a Japanese card game, was used fondly in the Buganda culture as a starter for a riddle or story telling.
At the fireplace that evening, on Kalangala Island, the KoiKoi team had recreated, though not entirely, the ancient art of story telling for many African communities.
The night, turning morning then, was drearily shutting the eyes of many. At the extreme end of what was a semi circle sat Collin Asiimwe, a whiz bang of the group. You almost knew it was him when he spoke. His voice imperceptibly rose as he approached the point he wanted to make.
To say he was generous with his boldness was to underestimate his prowess.
I barely recall sleeping that night. The room bookings had been jumbled, unable to keep the frustration, Joan, fondly referred to by the group as ‘Mumbejja’Luganda for ‘Princess’, asked that we move to a nearby Hotel.
Ugandan hotel Owners, particularly those at the Island did this a lot. They’d book in guests way over their room capacity, hoping, with bated breath, that the visitors wouldn’t turn up. Unluckily, for them, we all did this time, only late by a couple of hours.
So they moved us.
The rooms next door were not as exciting as those we’d earlier anticipated to be booked in. The bed was raised, the sheets rough, a blanket had been assigned horizontally on each, loosely covered with a mosquito net. Two slippers, one in red and its pair in blue were at the shower entrance. The shower itself, was a small square bulging with a toilet in one corner and an old rusty pipe running to its roof.
The webs were out, threading from the bathrooms to the bedroom and to the veranda where a plastic chair and a mat-sewn table had been arranged.
“We hope you like it here” the attendant told me as he handed me a set of keys.
Frankly, even in its mediocre state, it was a welcome breather from the ride to it. We’d been shuttled in a manual Rav 4 by a driver with excessive need for speed. His car radio was fit for a concert and his dress style, (black vest and blue light shorts) pitted him more as a distraught teenager than a professional hotelier.
I however chose to go back with him, I couldn’t afford missing the conversations around the fire.
5;00 am the next morning.
We were now deep in the bush, far from the lake, far from the sand and far from civility. It was 5 am. The bike rods could be heard cycle off in the morning quiet. Monkey chatters could be heard from the thickening vegetation. Joel, ahead of Pipes and Pacutho, both photographers of the group, cycled behind a guide we had picked from the shores.
It was just the four of us that morning, biking to set cameras ready for the sun to rise above the water. That shot had gotten us up at 5 am in the morning.
One major problem was about to hit us though; The sun wasn’t going to rise that morning anywhere near the lake side we had chosen. We waited, and waited, and shuffled out feet in the cold water till, in desperation we started photographing anything that came by.
Pipes was shooting tree logs that had fallen in water, Pacutho was snapping away at the monkeys that dogged in the dense thicket behind us. Joel, well Joel had carried a camera without batteries, so he sat on the log admiring nature and his Nikon.
We cycled back to the Island a bit disappointed, you could feel the low spirit as the leaves caved under the thin bicycle tyres we were on. Andrew had taken the trip a little too hard on himself, the bike he rode was a bad fit and he spent more time on his feet than with his bike.
We returned to the hotel to join the other pack who, by now, we brushing off the morning sleep. Some had gathered in the little TV room where we’d been almost three hours back feeding our eyes on the serving of a 2001 action movie that was airing.
The Panorama cottage chefs made mean cups of tea. Each laced with its own ingredient of herbs. We served, ate, and chatted the morning away.
That morning was reminiscent of an evening Colin, Joan and David had sat to craft the KoiKoi dream.
Set on a cold evening in the busy environs of Kisementi, the three shared cups of tea resting on a round glass table planted on tristles at the Somali-owned Cafe Javas.
David had explained to them how Kafunda Kreatives had borne the idea of celebrating Uganda’s independence but never quite really set off.
“We live in a country where we never see the good in us, only the bad” David would text me, a whole year and some months after that meeting.
David, Collin and Joan would, in eight weeks after that meeting have the first trip to Fortportal then later to Jinja, Packwach and now Kalangala Islands where we were.
It was common place to hear ‘wow, that’s beautiful’ ‘I’ve never seen this’ kind of compliments when the boats roved over the lake.
We caught one of the moments at the Island to shoot a piece to camera in which we drew the connection between domestic tourism and increased revenues.
That evening, while we headed back to the main Kalangala Island, with night flies ramming unsuspectingly into our tired bodies, the joke from the first night returned;
“Honestly, what were you doing Joel with that charade move?” Collin asked.
From the back, Pipes, the photographer replied “That’s the Joel Jjemba move!”
The boat burst into further laughter, for, after a long day trekking an Island, there was still some humour left.
Just like the ancestors of old that, after a day, sat down to tell the story starting with the powerful phrase ‘Koikoi’.
A link to the story that later ran that night can be found here
Alex Kinyi’s feet were charred in dust, locked under three-strap brown flats whose sole had borne the marks of a long journey walked.
The sun pelted hard onto his pronounced cheekbones balancing out his shade-black skin with the browning white shirt on his body. The tufts of his moustache covered his lips often choking his pronunciations.
He had been, until the day we met him, a government worker serving the youngest nation in the world. His English was polished and his logic tallied on many arguments.
“I schooled in Uganda, I’d never be this perfect” he retorted to my compliment on his good diction.
In South Sudan, where Alex came from, almost three quarters of the country could not read or write. 70 percent of those aged 6-17 had never set foot in a classroom and UNICEF reported that only one in ten who stepped into primary school would actually finish the course.
Alex was, by all means, lucky.
Four years before Alex was born, alleging marginalization, a grey-bearded soldier called John Garang would rally a force of soldiers in mutiny and start what would later be named the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. That force, would make sure that Alex was born into one of the longest and bloodiest civil wars of modern time.
Alex, by induction, became one of its fighters. It was here that he eased into an education in Uganda and would later return to the country for the last leap to independence.
But, months after the independence, the country’s conflict would force Alex to jump out of his house in Juba, leaving behind his father and wife to trek to a safe haven at Elegu’s reception centre, again, in Uganda.
Elegu town is a small border town in the Northern region of Uganda. It sits, on the edge of South Sudan’s Nimule border and shares its people equally. Between Uganda and South Sudan, from that border, are two checkpoints – a stick one on the S.Sudan side and a poster one on the Ugandan side.
At the Ugandan side, officers dressed in black uniforms and shiny boots greet you as they halt your car, their eyes buried beneath black sunglasses. Searches are mounted on the car and its contents and often, questions asked.
On the South Sudan side, a no-smile officer, in green army uniform robbed with rounds of bullets steps up to your car muttering words in Arabic that point to ‘present your documents’. He’s browning slippers almost hard to skip notice.
Once he’s done perusing them, he withdraws the stick letting you into a short distance before meeting a rope roadblock – it too, manned by soldiers, just in different uniform. Their task, is the customs.
“You’re journalists?” an officer peering his gun mouth through the co-driver’s seat asked
My heart, uneasily, started to race at this moment.
“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?”
That is Matthew 7: 16.
I find this a verse I should quote to clear the air about the callous, indiscreet, foolhardy but rather expected nature in which a blogger has sought to malign and discredit the name of my person, that of Sam, Kahill and my employer NTV among others.
On the 28th of May, a Saturday, at around midday, I came to learn that my friend Sam Tusiime had been arrested and detained by a section of people in the police.
Benjamin texted me asking me to confirm whether Sam had been arrested. I quickly worked the lines with my friends in CPS and couldn’t immediately register the arrest because he had not been written down in the register where all suspects must be written before being detained or questioned.
So I asked him to check again. He checked and insisted that Sam was in detention.
I called a high-rank officer who mans the station and he said he had not registered anyone with that name – which was true, because the people who arrested Sam, a section of ‘officers’, had chosen to detain him in room number 84 without charge and/or informing his next of kin, a requirement of the law.
From between 12pm – 5:35pm, we worked the lines amongst police officers to determine what offense it is that Sam had committed and sought legal counsel.
To our dismay (be it joy), Sam had no offence he had committed.
When we asked him about what questioning line had been deployed on him, he told us that they had asked him about T-shirts bearing a portrait of Kizza Besigye and how he had acquired them.
I could have started tweeting at 12;04pm when I first learnt of it but I didn’t because I don’t believe in circumventing justice. I held back all we had gotten until I had rang 4 police commissioners, 7 police commanders and regular force to establish the true facts of the matter. All officers confirmed that no investigation into the matter had been sanctioned and that no arrests had been ordered that they know of.
Without any possible charge in the penal code that could possibly be brought against Sam, I advised Benjamin to check on him and see to his health as I got in touch with lawyer friends.
While Benjamin was at the station, Sam and a friend were bundled into a waiting blue corolla with plate registration UAL 027H, a personal car not sanctioned to do police work. Benjamin, who was at the station was stopped from following the car – which raised even more suspicion. The men who detained Sam wore no uniform and refused to identify themselves to Benjamin and infact sought to arrest him too. Together with this, they issued various threats of additional torture.
Unlike what “Anisha” seeks to describe in her blog that we are not ‘peace loving’ citizens, we hadn’t up until that moment, with all the information we had gathered and the glaring inconsistences, tweeted about the process.
My circle of friends and I vowed to ourselves, about 4 years ago, that we would fight impunity whenever we saw it – in real life and in institutions (private or government) – which is why we choose which bars we shall not go to, which companies we shall not buy from and which people we shall not relate with. We call this ‘fighting the small battles we can win’.
We had seen this before when one of us, Danny, was arrested at Naggalama and purported to be charged with terrorism with the only available evidence as a black polythene bag of chapattis he had carried to visit a friend detained on political charges.
A year down the road, the charges had shifted from ‘terrorism’ to disobedience of police orders and had crumbled in a court of law after the key state witness, a police officer failed to show up to testify to them.
The magistrate dismissed the case a day to Danny’s birthday, as if to grant him and us an early entry into celebration.
Again, it is false, as alleged by “Anisha” that we sought to discredit the force because we had heard their side of the story and in various tweets, we referred to a ‘section’ of the force as having carried out the arrest and protracted detention of Sam and two others.
Even when we had heard first hand accounts of the beating of our friend with a baton and slapping him, we insisted in tweets that this would be subject to proof by evidence and testimony in court.
By the time of the release of the three people who had been arrested; Sam had spent a combined total of 74 hours in detention, Muyinda, 99hours and Asia Nanyanzi another 102 hours. All these, far beyond the constitutional guaranteed time of detention without charge of 48 hours.
To the irregularities in Sam’s arrest;
“Anisha” alleges that police had received intelligence that there were planned mass demonstrations that Sam would be at the centre of, distributing T-shirts. (LOL)
‘She/he’ further alleges that Vintage creations, a company run by Asia, was contracted to print T-shirts for the said protests.
First of all, for my non-Ugandan audience, it is not illegal to demonstrate in Uganda neither is it illegal to print T-shirts, even those bearing a face of an opposition leader.
That said, let me delve into it.
At about 20 hours into Sam’s detention, police spokesperson Enanga released a statement in which he detailed the arrest, he mentioned that Sam was planning to distribute the 120 T-shirts for a protest on Friday the 28th of May 2016 in Jinja and that police had recovered them.
The statement, on little analysis, showed many glaring contradictions.
The 28th of May was a Saturday not a Friday as the police spokesperson’s calendar had alleged. The search warrant signed by 6 officers who searched Sam’s house found only four T-shirts and not 120 as mentioned. Even the 120 figure sounded cooked up as Enanga had admitted almost 7 hours before authoring the statement that only four T-shirts had been recovered from Sam’s home.
Vintage creations, the company “Anisha” alleges was contracted has no written or word of mouth contract to print T-shirts for the purpose of a demonstration. Infact, Vintage creations had designed a T-shirt for Sam and when he donned it, many people demanded that he makes more for them, which he did, which they printed.
They are a company, they pay their taxes and they transact business, which is legally sanctioned.
No demonstration has since occurred in Jinja to effect this story. Not that it would be illegal too.
“Anisha” with the above fallacious claims not tallying up sought to discredit my person saying and I quote:
“My other observation is that the FDC online propagandists continue to use a clique member and NTV “journalist” Raymond Mujuni (@QatahaRaymond) to continue pushing their police and Government institutions blackmail propaganda on social media especially twitter.
To you my readers who might not know this Raymond, he has a very rich and interesting history in the recent past. During the recently concluded presidential and parliamentary elections, he was under question by his NTV bosses over issues of ethics as he could hardly distinguish his professional work from his political attachment then.
It was from his unprofessional conduct and the fear of conflict and bias that had cropped at NTV that he (Raymond) had to be sent to Nation Media Kenya to first get the basics of journalism”.
I’ll not slay her on the fact that she couldn’t get my handle right, most people with vitriol to spill never do.
I must state and categorically clear that I have never come under any question on my ethics, much to the contrary, my newsroom believes in my ethics so much. I declare my conflict of interest as early as I see it.
I belong to no political party and neither do I subscribe to the idea of them.
I do have a set of principles I live by. I detest injustice, I shame it when I see it and I trade in my profession as an investigative journalist, with a repute of professional awards, national and international, to show for my work.
Now you must understand, by “Anisha’s” claim, I am in Kenya because my employer found my conduct unprofessional. Judging by this claim, my employer must be the most gracious and caring you’d ever find to not fire you for an offence as grave as that and much more transfer you to their Headquarters!
I can’t deny I am in Kenya. My employer sent me here to join a selected group of 10 journalists from Africa who would sit at the heart of its future in journalism.
I couldn’t have been more delighted and honored.
In my short span here, I have met Christiane Amanpour’s producer, a winner of seven Emmy awards, I’ve met Mathenge, the CNN Africa journalist of the year for his photography on the Westgate attack. I continue to talk to my close mentor John Allan Namu, a winner of CNN awards and EastAfrica’s best investigative journalist. I file stories for Daily Nation, the best selling newspaper in Sub-Saharan Africa, I report for NTV Kenya, the mother brand of our Ugandan one. I write for the EastAfrican, the region’s most authoritative paper.
In three days of every week, I meet the best of their trade from the world and I don’t take this investment of the company into their future lightly.
“Anisha” sought to bring the matter of my tweets on the Sam issue, which falls out of my profession and into my personal life to the attention of my bosses.
An inquiry was conducted and in under 3 hours I was convicted of having followed our social media policy to it’s dot and handed a sentence of continuing my work with the company in peace.
Suffice to say, her claims were fallacious, baseless, not factual and with malicious intent.
Angered by the findings, “Anisha” sought to be the judge in her own case. Violating every principle of a fair hearing that ever existed.
Let me address a bit the person of Sam.
Sam, my friend who was jailed for the T-shirt he chose to wear, is not your everyday ‘Techprenuer’ . He used his primary years after law school to develop an administration system that eases record keeping in Health institutions, his innovations, if audited would show a track of how many people we have since saved in the health sector. After that, he independently developed software that handles all the administration of a school on just a click.
This product – Schoolplus – is proudly used by the leading excelling schools, students and parents in Uganda.
Sam would, as have some techprenuers, developed an app on where to get the cheapest beer, or where to find the best event but he didn’t. He chose to develop for social service good – health and education.
This is the character that “Anisha” says wants to destroy Uganda, a non-lover of peace sent by the devil’s angels to bring destruction unto the nation.
If I have learnt anything from my friends, it is that we exist in an eco-system bent on changing our country for the better. We do not as many politicians do just rant, we seek to fix problems when we see them and our works – not words – speak for us.
I will address, finally, the reason “Anisha” continues to attack us.
The character “Anisha” together with the blog and Twitter account were created in a few months leading to the election.
The intention was to spread information about the campaign programs of the ruling party – at a fee.
With time, the accounts interpreted their job as that of attacking –online- people who questioned many facts, figures and numbers that they threw around and the response from them was to always malign, shame and seek to discredit the person questioning them without necessarily responding to the questions.
You will notice, at inception, the character “Anisha” claimed to be a citizen of Botswana, in a few weeks, would quickly change that to being a Rwandan with love for Uganda and later become Ugandan, we are hoping, this evolution will help the character truly accept to live up to their name and own the words they say with a real personality.
I know who the character is but to name them will be an invasion of their privacy and that I will restrain from.
The blog, on which “she/he” hoisted the attacks on my person has done not much other than attack the person of Besigye, his supporters and their queries. I know a couple of friends who subscribe to and love NRM and I know how they love to engage and discuss online with those from FDC and the neutral parties. Characters like “Anisha” bring shame to this discourse.
“Anisha’s” five blogs have revolved only around Besigye, his person and his supporters with occasional mention of “Anisha’s” cows in Sembabule.
They have not shown a record of hosting dialogue.
I have offered to hear out “Anisha” but “he/she” has evaded that fair hearing offered to “him/her”.
I invite whoever has read the blog and it’s contents to disregard with contempt the fallacies raised therein.
It’s defamatory at best and reckless at worst.
I however urge the friends of “Anisha” who – by indication of payroll – know ‘his/her’ dealings, to counsel ‘him/her’ on the principles of dialogue, the nuts and bolts of grammar, the complexities of multiple personality disorder and the scripting of paid propaganda.
For those who prefer judgement, I invite you again to the scripture of Matthew 7: 16
“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?”
Besigye’s home in Kasangati sat on about two acres. It was shrouded in leafy gardens that sprouted out of a neat grass compound. Orange and guava trees shyly peered out of the far end of it.
A brown dirt road that cut through farms branched off the Kasangati road to his home.
The police throughout the electoral announcement period occasionally blocked the road, about two meters wide. A truck with eight policemen would be driven and parked at the branch off point. Two barricades were thrown in its middle and at the towering gate that led to the house.
Shortly after his arrest in town, Besigye would be driven to Kiira road police and detained for about 15 minutes.
In that time, angry supporters would gather around the stations and sing songs of freedom demanding that he be released.
At Kiira road, the supporters occupied the island in between the roads and would pour out onto the road blocking traffic in turns.
Their pressure yielded. In a few minutes, a black police pickup pulled up to the entrance of the police station. Besigye and Nabillah would quickly be smuggled in and driven at a fast pace.
Our driver, Tumukunde, had parked above the station and only waited on us to hop in before he sped off behind the truck.
On many bends and turns on the speedy chase of the police van, we encountered hordes of motorcycle riders that were on hand to point to where the pickup truck had turned off to. Behind us trailed a string of news cars that were cushioned on the sides with chanting supporters clung onto motorcycles.
Tumukunde brought the car to a screeching halt as police had sealed off the road to Besigye’s home only allowing the truck carrying him and three other opposition leaders into the compound.
The games began.
A cop approached our car. “You’re the people of NTV?” he mused. With the bright logo flashed outside the Suzuki, it was certainly not hard to identify us, infact you needed not to ask.
I started clutching off my bulletproof vest to respond to his question.
“Yes, that would be us” I responded.
He briefly gestured away from our car to the officers at the gate and they started advancing towards our car. I asked him whether he was going to place us under arrest and whether we’d committed a crime. He still kept a brief silence.
We were ushered into the home that hid behind black gate bars and searched by Besigye’ guard before joining three other international media colleagues.
From a table on the verandah of his home, Besigye looked drenched, his blue shirt had marks of dirt at its hem, to his shoulder and the arms. He sat in silence, staring into the compound, seemingly meditating.
Kato, the driver, pulled seats for us and a small presser materialised.
“I am going to return to town for my campaigns” Besigye stated in an authoritative voice.
He stood from his chair, walked past us and sat in his car.
Kato revved the engine and certainly, in my mind, I pictured what was going to be a longer day.
Kiira Road Police was a colonial station. It stood on old walls that had long been washed down in dirt and writings.
A plucked out seat from an old matatu welcomed you to it’s reception that was often manned by junior officers who sat behind a grey paint table littered with many books of records.
There was an old grey-paint door that separated the reception from its holding cell, a small, four-walled room with a dampening stench.
Suspects, the small fish, would be thrown in here and closed in with browning metal bar rods shackled with a big silver padlock.
The big fish, mostly politicians arrested at demonstrations would be kept in the office of the OC Station, a bit better polished, with a comfortable sofa seat and a daily serving of the newspapers.
Besigye however, would be placed in the cell – with the ‘small fish’. On many occasions, he’d be asked to remove his shoes and walk on the floor. He always had a pair of slippers in his car for such moments.
Just after the cell was a container-shed hut, boxed into a small compound and covered with growing vegetation over it’s roof. It served partly as the traffic police office and partly as the waiting room for bribes.
A large ring of bribery ran through the station.
On the morning before Besigye was driven there, officers walked around in pensive mood. A corporal kept charge of the OC’s phone that co-ordinated with the commander of the metropolitan who monitored the activities of Besigye back in town.
He’d pace with the phone down the verandah to interrupt the Officer in Charge with ‘important’ calls.
Kato, Besigye’s long time driver, knew the drill all too well. Reach the police roadblock, raise up the window glasses, lock the car and open the roof for his boss to peer his head through and engage with the force.
He was experienced at this. He’d done it over and over again. Even on the fateful day in 2011 when his boss’ glasses were smashed, spray and gas passed through, brutally dragged out of the car and placed under the seats of a waiting van, Kato had stayed in the car, firm behind the wheels and coughing supposedly choking on the teargas.
He kept a kempt haircut above his square head. Many times, his fashion sense revolved around stripped shirts, khaki pants, brown boots and black or brown leather jackets.
On this day, he’d kept a black one (jacket) around his seat in the white Landcruiser vehicle. He peeped occasionally to his boss, the leading opposition candidate in the election, and structured sentences inaudible to the people on the outside.
A police ring had been formed on Luwum street, blocking Besigye from accessing the lower side of the town where many small-scale traders and taxi touts were. These were a big support base for him.
Besigye had earlier announced he’d go through the place and have a rally in Kisekka market, a makeshift of temporary structures that were majorly run by mechanics.
Kato knew they’d not reach. But he drove eitherway and parked right infront of the mounted human roadblock as he’d always done.
Besigye defied the police and sat back in his car waiting on police’s next action. 7 minutes on, a gathering crowd around his car would chant that he walks to Luwum street to ‘eat lunch’.
There was deafening elation when the back seat door of his landcruiser popped open. A pointed black shoe peered through beneath a hugging pair of black socks that would be covered with khaki pants when he finally stood his two feet firm.
Besigye was about 5 feet tall with shrugging shoulders. He wore an impressionable smile that carved out between two stretching wrinkles running down his dark face. A set of three veins threaded through the left side of his face as he stretched out two fingers to the air.
His momentary ululations were cut short when a loud bang sounded from right infront of him.
“Colonel jangu” a man, in black attire would drag him into a small human body ring that had been formed to protect him.
Three more successive bangs would go off forcing the crowd that had gathered to scamper into shops and corridors on the busy Luwum street.
“Kale mutandise olutalo..” a woman grudgingly mumbled as she ran past the police.
The air was filled with smoke and in a few minutes its effects would be felt.
Occasional coughs and sneezes of running people would be heard. A barrage of stones rained down from the buildings around the scene forcing the police to cower into shields that they’d earlier carried.
From across, a group of policemen advanced towards Besigye, who by now, was squatting surrounded by his supporters.
More teargas canisters were being fired into the air, into buildings and cars that were around the scene.
The shield around Besigye walked him towards his car as the police drew closer and in a split second, just before he could get into the car, a canister fell on the feet of three men around him.
Distracted in the smoke, an officer stretched out and grabbed Besigye…..
In Part 3; The drive to Kiira Road Police, the release and the return of Besigye to Kampala
Kizza Besigye knew two things about the day of February 15th, the first was that he would campaign in the city center, his stronghold, and the other that his campaigns would close the next day so he needed to maximize his efforts.
If you’d told him, five hours on, he would be ducking beneath a sea of bullets, suffocated with poisonous gas, in a car being forcefully towed by a police truck, he’d probably believe you but not take you for your word.
But so his day went.
The morning was unsettling. I’d been pacing from office to office within the Serena basement, which was our newsroom, trying to tie the last dots of an election project.
In equal measure, many distractions were in the air. “Raymond pick me a copy of the docket at the printer”, Patricia, our producer would request. “Did you confirm that interview for today” Brian Mulondo, a morning show presenter and partner on the election project would also disrupt.
To escape the noise, I crammed into the News Manager’s office, plunked down two headsets in my ear and drifted away on my script. Occasionally though, I’d peep at my twitter account to see how the day was progressing online.
A few minutes onto 1pm, as the dash for the bulletin gripped the newsroom, I noticed, through the glass barricade of the office, a little gathering on one of the computers. Reporters, pausing the editing of their stories, had gathered at a desk to see how ‘it had gone down’ on Luwum street.
I’d later learn, the ‘going down’ implied an arrest of Besigye.
For a man who’d been arrested 48 times before this day, all in two years, this shouldn’t have been news. But it was. Because it was campaign season and he had his crowds.
“We still don’t know where he has been taken though” I eavesdropped the last part of a conversation that a reporter was debriefing the news manager.
Relaxed, still unbothered, I returned to writing my script. This time though, choosing to look at the timeline before continuing.
The pictures were gripping of attention. In one, Besigye, ducked, surrounded by three seemingly protective men, in another, a street with people lying on the ground and gas blurring the streaming traffic.
“This might be a big story” I muttered to myself.
Maurice, the news manager skimmed through the newsroom, calling my name thrice before my music would let me hear him.
“Can you be part of the story?’ he asked. I’d hesitantly stepped away from the news stories because of the project I was working on but equally, with almost everybody’s hands full, it would be selfish to maintain my stay away.
It was now less than ten minutes to the 1 O’clock bulletin and judging by events, the bulletin would have to be longer given the magnitude of battles that were happening in the city.
I scampered down the studio hallway with a bulletproof jacket in one hand and a helmet in the other. Two cameramen would join me as we rushed to Kiira Road police (A place we suspected he’d be taken) to do a live update. The newsroom liked the live updates.
My voice was struggling to peer through the hundreds that had gathered at Kiira Road police when we got there.
On the line, in my ears, Manmeet, an Asian producer at NTV, readied me for the live update.
“Joel is in studio, we are coming to you in 4 minutes” she said in heavily laced Indian accent.
4 minutes! Just 4 minutes! That’s all I had to have all my facts together. Facts of a story I had only started following 15 minutes before this moment. But journalism, specifically broadcast journalism, is as such, you think on your feet.
I briefly caught the first glimpse of Besigye as his head peered out of the black Ford pickup truck that had brought him to the station.
From the back seat he emerged, they’d crammed in with Kampala Woman MP, Nabillah Naggayi Ssempala and three other people I couldn’t readily identify.
I took down the notes on my Evernote application and kept refreshing as the clock chimed down the four minutes.
By this time, armored police men with knees barricaded in black shiny guards had taken to securing the entrance to the station. They each wore a pair of black sunglasses, carving out at their ears with little initials of ‘Raybans’.
Their heads cowered into blue helmets with leather coating and their veiny arms held seemingly new and shiny Ak-47 machine guns, the index finger never leaving the trigger.
Our crew had already set up. A small ‘quick-link’ machine had been powered. The machine would then be connected to the camera by a cable and signal transmitted through it to the studio.
Manmeet could ‘see me’. A term we regularly used to check if the signal was working
“Go away from here” a rude voice interfered with the signal test. It was one of the cops. He’d been instructed to not let us film from the entrance showing the car that had brought Besigye.
I obliged, only just so I could do the update now with the protesters that had gathered. The other part because we needed to make a quick news judgement on whether to start an update in the middle of a scuffle or tell the story.
I still kept an eye at the cop, his face a paint of gloom and threat. He kept gesturing us away as he tightened his thumb on the trigger. Four of his other colleagues were now peering from his back, seemingly headed for a ruthless encounter; they’d pull out black whips as they advanced.
I gestured to my cameraman to face his lens in their direction. Away from me. Away from the live update. I didn’t know what would happen next but whatever it was, I’d be safer having it on camera.
What would be one of my longest days in a riot had begun and I still had no clue about it….