All is not well in the Uganda Police Force over the handling of the suspects accused of torturing Kamwenge town council mayor, Geoffrey Byamukama.
URN understands that police spokesperson Asan Kasingye threatened to resign on Wednesday after his colleagues, during a meeting of the senior officers of the force, asked him retract his statement that four suspects had been arrested in connection to Byamukama’s torture.
Byamukama, alongside at least 15 other suspects, is accused of taking part in the March 17 murder of Assistant Inspector General of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi, his driver Kenneth Erau and bodyguard Godfrey Wambewo.
Besides Byamukama, the other suspects have also appeared in court with fresh wounds allegedly sustained during torture at Nalufenya police detention centre.
The police first denied Byamukama’s arrest in early April until it all came to light late last week when he was found at Nakasero hospital in Kampala with deep wounds all over his body. Kasingye first said the torture could have happened elsewhere and not in police custody.
The Inspector General of Police, General Kale Kayihura, ordered for the arrest of two senior officers, Patrick Munanura and Fred Tumuhirwe together with their juniors, Sgt Tumukunde and Constable Ronnie Byenkya in connection with Byamukama’s torture.
Kasingye who had earlier denied that Byamukama had been tortured by the police later admitted in a statement that there had been “a scuffle in which the mayor sustained superficial injuries.”
A week ago Kasingye also confirmed that the four torture suspects had been arrested. State minister for Internal Affairs Obiga Kania in his address to parliament apologised to the nation that Byamukama had been tortured.
Obiga also ‘confirmed’ police had arrested four officers allegedly linked to the torture of Byamukama and other suspects at Nalufenya police detention facility. He said investigations were still ongoing.
Now URN has learnt from reliable sources in the police that the suspects have never been arrested as earlier claimed. Kayihura ordered for their arrest before he left to Algeria on official duties.
A source told URN that the police accounts committee held a meeting on Wednesday where the torture issue was discussed. The highly-charged meeting is said to have taken place in the board room at police headquarters in Naguru.
The police accounts committee is comprised of members of top police management who include all the directors. The source says the only officer absent in the meeting was John Ndungutse, the director of Counter Terrorism. The meeting was chaired by deputy Inspector General of Police Okoth Ochola.
The meeting reportedly learnt that no suspect had been arrested. A report from the police Professional Standards Unit was brought into the meeting indicating that the four supposedly arrested officers are neither in custody nor at their known addresses.
Those in attendance tasked deputy director Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Directorate, Moses Musana and Nixon Agasirwe, who until recently was head of the Special Operations Unit, to produce the suspects but they could not be produced. Musana reportedly used to head the Nalufenya facility.
The meeting, according to the sources, also tasked the Director Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Directorate (CIID), Grace Akullo to open an inquiry into the torture allegations with view of instituting criminal proceedings against the suspects.
The meeting allegedly turned stormy when police spokesman, Asan Kasingye was advised to call a media briefing in which he would retract confirmations about the arrest of the two senior officers and their juniors.
Kasingye, according to the sources was not happy with calling a press conference to retract his earlier statement that the four had been arrested. He reportedly threatened to resign over the matter that would depict him as a liar.
Kasingye in a telephone interview on Wednesday evening did not confirm or deny whether the police accounts committee meeting was held. But he denied that he had threatened to resign. He, however said the Internal Affairs minister, General Jeje Odong, was to issue a statement about the progress in the investigations into torture allegations.
General Odong could not be reached on his known mobile phone number. State Minister for Internal Affairs, Obiga Kania, could not confirm reports that the four suspects were not in detention.
Obiga Kania who sounded furious about the matter said Kasingye and his boss would have to explain why they would let him lie to the public and parliament that the arrests had been made.
On Tuesday, President Museveni weighed in on the issue, writing a letter to his top security chiefs warning against the use of torture. The president said the practice is “unnecessary and wrong and must not be used again”.
Museveni said torture was wrong because it could lead to innocent people admitting guilt just to end the pain. In the letter addressed to Chief of Defence Forces, General David Muhoozi, IGP Kayihura and the Director of Intelligence Services, Museveni said torture is not “consonant with logic.”