Uganda: Plea From Women Activists
Anne Mugisha writes for support in condemning attacks on women activists in Uganda, particularly in relation to recent protests.
I am writing to you as a woman activist and in the name of all women activists in Uganda and world-wide. For the last one year we have been engaged in protests against corruption, mismanagement of the economy, wastage of public resources and abuse of office by President Museveni's 26 year old regime. Our protests, particularly the Walk to Work Protest have caught world wide attention and revealed incessant incidents of police brutality against protestors, which have led to the death of an unknown number of Ugandans as well as physical and psychological injuries to many more. Since April 2011, women have been at the forefront of these protests and they have participated actively in organizing them. Women have come face to face with the bare-knuckled brutality meted out on protestors.
At the beginning of the protests a two year old baby girl, Juliana Nalwanga was killed by security men who shot her through the head. A pregnant woman was shot through the belly and her intestines poured out on the street. Both mother and unborn child barely survived the incident. At the time, leaders of the women's movement in Uganda took to the streets and protested police brutality as did human rights activists. Over time women have remained active in the protests and police brutality against them has continued unabated, however the silence of the women's movement over the treatment of these women activists has been deafening. I would like to draw your attention to the following video of Ingrid Turinawe's arrest on 20th April, 2012 on her way to a protest rally in Nansana, Kampala.
Ingrid has been at the helm of the protest movement for more than four years and has been particularly active in the past year as a leading figure in the Walk to Work protests. She faces several criminal charges as a result of her activities including the charge of treason which carries a death sentence. Her courage and perseverance have made her a heroine among activists and a villain for the police. While her heroism usually draw adulation or condemnation from opposing sides, all Ugandans and particularly women activists are united in their anger and disgust at the manner in which a policeman indecently assaulted her by fondling and grabbing her breast in a televised incident of her arrest. During the one year of activism there have been several incidents in which police violated women's bodies and their decency in order to humiliate and hurt them publicly. On the very first day of the Walk to Work protests 11 April 2011, there were no police women to carry out arrests and I was manhandled by policemen outside Jinja Road police station where a police officer only known to me as Kamugisha indecently touched my right breast. I complained to his superiors including the Asst. Inspector General of Police Asen Kasingye on a live radio program at Kfm Radio, but no action was taken against Kamugisha.
The following week at the very same spot on Jinja Road, police women dragged us across the road in a humiliating arrest. Protestors on that day included an elderly Member of Parliament, Hon. Cecilia Ogwal and she was not spared the indignity of a brutal arrest.
In January 2012, Woman Member of Parliament for Kampala District, Hon. Nabillah N Sempala was deliberately hurt by the police in a staged motor accident, and she spent days in a hospital trying to regain her health. Shortly after she returned to the protests, while still in casts and braces to repair her bones; she was assaulted at a rally in Katwe and rushed to hospital again. There are hundreds of women activists who participate in these protests whose stories may never be told because they do not have voices that carry as far as those of the women leaders. These women, all women protestors need your support. We will take action against the police officer who assaulted Ingrid Turinawe and the police force that allows this nauseating behavior.
We call upon you to join us in an advocacy campaign condemning sexual violence and any kind of violence against peaceful protestors.