BY ALEX BALUKU
Baluku is a distinguished Fellow of the Dag Hammarskjöld Fund for Journalists, currently reporting from the United States of America on the 78th UN General Assembly. With a keen eye for global affairs and a commitment to delivering insightful coverage of UN activities, Baluku brings a unique perspective to the world of international journalism.
In the Friday noon briefing at the UN Headquarters in New York, the United Nations (UN) Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, Farhan Haq, expressed deep concerns about the treatment of the press and political opposition in Uganda, following the arrest of Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, also known as Bobi Wine, Uganda’s leader of the opposition and President of the National Unity Platform.
The UN’s response came in the wake of Bobi Wine’s arrest upon his arrival at Entebbe International Airport on October 5, 2023. Security operatives, disguised as airport staff, arrested Bobi Wine and took him to his residence in Magere in Kampala. Additionally, reports emerged of journalists being subjected to physical violence during this incident.
Speaking from his home, Bobi Wine narrated the ordeal. He revealed that upon his arrival at the Entebbe International Airport aboard RwandAir, security operatives, disguised as airport staff, apprehended him and transported him to his residence even before he had been cleared by the immigration office at the airport. Additionally, journalists who were diligently covering this event were subjected to physical violence and unjust arrests.
The National Unity Platform Leader stated that while at the airport, security operatives put him in a military car, where more than 15 people were packed, and drove him to the old airport before ultimately taking him to his residence in Magere. Upon reaching Magere, his home was surrounded by both the Army and Police.
During the Friday noon briefing, Alex Baluku, a Dag Hammarskjöld fellow, raised questions about the UN’s stance on these troubling developments in Uganda. He inquired whether the UN planned to engage with the Ugandan Government to address these human rights concerns and ensure the protection of political opposition figures and journalists.
Baluku is also a victim of physical violence and harassment. On August 18, 2022, while he was reporting on the Busongora South by-election in Kasese, he became a victim of physical violence. In a shocking turn of events, he found himself staring down the barrel of a police officer’s gun, all because he was covering the brutal arrest of an opposition candidate, Hon. Aloysius Baguma Kighema. Baluku has continued to receive threats.
In response, Farhan Haq affirmed the UN’s commitment to human rights and expressed concerns over any nation facing issues related to the treatment of the press and political parties, stating that Uganda is no exception. The UN aims to make its concerns known and ensure that Bobi Wine’s rights to due process are upheld. They also seek to ensure that journalists in Uganda can carry out their work without harassment or threats.
The UN’s response highlights its dedication to promoting freedom of the press, political dissent, and human rights in Uganda and around the world. It underscores the importance of safeguarding the rights and well-being of political opposition figures and journalists who play a critical role in democratic societies.
As the situation in Uganda continues to evolve, the UN’s stance serves as a reminder of the global community’s commitment to upholding fundamental rights and freedoms, even in the face of challenges.
Uganda has, for many years, been in the limelight for conducting illegal arrests, detention, and judicial harassment of political opponents, civil society leaders, and human rights defenders.
The incident involving the arrest of Bobi Wine, a prominent opposition leader, has raised serious concerns about the state of democracy and human rights in Uganda. The UN has voiced its deep concerns over these troubling developments, particularly the treatment of the press and political opposition in the country.
As the situation in Uganda continues to evolve, the UN’s stance serves as a reminder of the global community’s commitment to upholding fundamental rights and freedoms, even in the face of challenges. Uganda’s history of illegal arrests, detention, and harassment of political opponents and human rights defenders further highlights the urgency of addressing these issues to protect democracy and human rights in the country.