An account of my sedition case
By Timothy Kalyegira
In July, I was summoned by the Uganda Police over a series of articles I had written on the bomb blasts in the Ugandan capital Kampala on the night of July 11, 2010. In these articles, published under my names in the Internet newspaper, the Uganda Record, I attempted to assess what or who might have been behind these bombings, as did most of the rest of the media. The initial blame was put on the Somali militant group Al-Shabab. However, I took a different angle from this widely-held view. Based on my understanding of Uganda, past reports about certain covert actions by the state, and certain specific streams of speculation, I asserted that these bombs were not planted by Al-Shabab but by the Uganda government, through its secret security services. Not surprisingly, the state took action against me for making these serious charges.
I was issued with sermons by the media crimes department of the police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID), based at the CID headquarters at Kibuli in Kampala. This led to a day-long interrogation in late July. In the meantime, I was released on police bond and have remained on police bond ever since July.
My case has attracted much public interest partly because I am a fairly well-known figure in Uganda and partly because this was the first case of sedition brought against an online publication. All previous sedition charges in Uganda had been against newspapers published in the print, hard copy format. From the time I was summoned by the CID headquarters in July to date, I have not been physically harassed in any way by the police or any other security force. I have not received any threat of harassment. The search of my home in Makindye was conducted professionally and there was no ransacking or destruction of property. The CID officers who came to conduct the search did not take anything away as an exhibit that they did not record down. For most of the time I have had to report to the police station, there has been a lot of nervousness and concern among my relatives, friends and colleagues.
There is a widespread perception that if one goes to a police station unaccompanied by a lawyer or other witness, one can be detained unexpectedly or even be illegally moved to a secret location. There is also the perception that the police is constantly under instruction or pressure from State House or certain arms of the state security agencies to bring charges against the media or politicians and that the police, in arresting or summoning offenders is, therefore, usually acting under orders “from above”.
To be continued...