First published on April 22, 2014 by Change of Guards Blog
In the heart of Kampala city is the NRA's military police barracks at Makindye. During the Iddi Amin regime the same barracks was re-known for detention without trial, torture, and killing of many Ugandans. The property housing the said barracks belongs to the Buganda kingdom. It was taken over by the central government around 1966 following the abolition of kingdoms. When Museveni took over power he opportunistically restored the kingdom and promised to return the property. His army continues to occupy the said property with no intention of vacating It has taken him 28 years to handover the title deeds of the said property! The Buganda Kingdom earns rent from the Ministry of Defence.
Even under Museveni the role of Makindye barracks continued to be the same as had been the case under Iddi Amin. The only difference is that under Museveni there has been little information flow about torture at Makindye barracks save for the few highlights by international human rights organisations. Makindye Barracks is the NRA's tactical base for the brutal anti-demonstrations operations in Kampala city. Also during general elections, it acts as the base for the army's terror and intimidation unleashed against both the opposition and the general population in order to coarse them to vote for Museveni. Military personnel are dressed in regular Police uniform at Makindye before they are dispatched to the city to cause mayhem.
The barracks has been the holding ground of civilians arrested by different intelligence outfits like Operation Wembly, VCCU, KAP, Flying Squad, ISO, CMI, SFG. It has also been taking custody of civilians who are released by courts of law but the army immediately rearrests them from within the court premises and detains them in Makindye. At one time Museveni referring to Makindye barracks boosted thus "I have found a safer place for them where they can’t escape". It is at Makindye that the likes of Kayihura and Hope Mwesigye (then Minister) competed for the securing the release of PRA suspects by involving behind the scenes negotiations between suspects, their relatives and Museveni.
At the quarter guard (main entrance) on the left-hand side is block that has eight tiny isolation cells. These cells are used as torture chambers for suspects who are picked and isolated for torture from the main detentions facilities inside the barracks. They are used to hold those suspects whom the authorities do not want to be seen by other inmates so that forced disappearance is eased. Also, they are used as a temporary holding ground for suspects who are brought in at night and for security reasons the authorities do not want to open the main detention facility.
Further, it is at the quarter guard cells that the authorities conduct follow up interrogation and torture to extract more information from those victims who are already in detention. It is very common for operatives from the earlier mentioned intelligence outfits to make regular visits to Makindye and order to produce some suspect for further interrogation and torture. If a victim is lucky he is interrogated from these isolation cells where the interrogators exercise some restraint. During interrogation at the isolation cells, the victim is stripped naked, handcuffed to the iron bars of the door leaving only the toes to touch the floor.
If the victim is not cooperative, he will be left in that state for the whole night for the mosquitoes to do the interrogation. However, if the victim is unlucky he is driven off to the safe houses in town from where he may never be seen again. The one-time Commanding Officer of Makindye Col. Dick Bugingo used to tell suspects that for them (Military Police) they are just store keepers who were given 'goods' for safe custody such that if the owner (intelligence organisations) demands for his goods, he must be given at any time of the day without question. No wonder Col. Bugingo was retired immediately following the 2006 mysterious escape of high profile suspects from his custody.
Passing this quarter guard cell into the barracks, about 25 meters on the left is the infamous Go-Down cell. It is not clear whether the structure was build by the Buganda Kingdom or by the Iddi Amin government. It is used to house civilian incommunicado. The structure is a huge concrete building block with a high and wide metallic sliding gate. Inside the structure on the immediate left are two huge cells with burglar proof glass windows. The same applies to the right side. This one are rarely used except for accommodating the terminally sick. Directly opposite the gate about 15 meters away are the infamous three underground cells from which the entire structure derives its name - Go-down.
The Go-downs have strong metallic sliding doors and stair cases leading under ground about five metres. They have 30 metres high walls that touch the high roof where very tiny ventilators are located. Both during the day and at night detainees ease themselves in the plastic buckets. Every evening was is left to flow into the cells up to a quarter metre high. Guards are posted even on the roof during day time and can be seen from the 2 metres away main road to Lukuli Nanganda and the surrounding neighbourhoods. After many years of secrecy pertaining to the detention of hundreds of civilians at Makindye, an inmate took the initiative to compile their particulars and pass them on to the press who after running the story, their relatives raised alarm that compelled the authorities to lessen the grip.
Bypassing this Go-down on the right is the Commanding Officers office. By passing it on the left about 20 metres away is the main kitchen for the suspects on the right and on the left, is the clinic. From the clinic, upward about 10 metres away is a strong metallic gate leading to another detention facility called Zimwe. It derives its name from the contract to build a high concrete fence all around that Gen Kaziini awarded to Zimwe Construction. Its located at the barracks' peripheral bordering with the main road and the civilian residential quarters outside the barracks.
This facility has four huge concrete structures with each one having two different big cells. The cells are self contained in terms of toilet and laundry. Among the Old Boys of Zimwe wing is Col. Samson Monday who was housed in Ward D. Also, one of the wards is called Ituri because that is where the PRA suspects were housed after being rearrested from court by the black mambas following their release by courts of law. The fourth structure was recently constructed to provide for senior army officers at a time the army was contemplating to detain Dr. Kiiza Besigye and was also stuck with Brig. Tumukunde's detention at the Officer's mess at Acasia Avenue in Kololo.
Around 2006 the detention facilities at Makindye underwent major renovation that was carried out by the NRA department of Construction and with the physical supervision of officials from the Buganda kingdom land board. Therefore, there is no doubt that Buganda Kingdom as landlords are fully aware of what their tenant (Museveni’s) is using and abusing their property but since they are reaping huge sums of money they are not bothered. At the time, these officials from Buganda land board were even used by detainees to smuggle notes to media houses. The said notes contained the details of torture and incarceration that was being carried out by the NRA at the facility and The Monitor ran these details.
Kigo Prison on the outskirts of Kampala city is another Buganda property that is used by the NRA to torture and kill Ugandans whenever Makindye Barracks ran out of sufficient space. CMI, JATT, Operation Wembly, ISO, KAP, RRU, VCCU, and SFG turned Kigo Prison into an intelligence agencies detention facility. Using the cover of the General Court Martial, these intelligence outfits would detain and withdraw victims at will.
The said Remand and Production Warrants by the court martial were mere papers in the possession of these agencies and the victim needed not to have appeared before the court martial. At any time of the day or night, a victim could be removed from Kigo for further torture in the safe houses and never to be seen again. The OC of the Prison became an incorporated member of JATT with a monthly allocation of operation funds. Gen Tumwine as a special task Chairman of the General Court Martial at the time played a crucial role in legitimising the legal detention (see: General Court Martial - a tool of illegal detention by NRA).
Therefore, much as the Buganda kingdom financially benefits from its property being inappropriately used by the NRA, it is also knowingly aiding and abetting the commission of atrocities against Ugandans by the NRA.
INFORMATION IS POWER