For the last few days I have been in Geneva as Internet Freedom Fellow with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva and Institute for Media and Global Governance with many other digital activists, bloggers and journalists from Burma, China, Tunisia, Egypt, South Korea and Indonesia. One of the tours took me to the United Nations office of the Commissioner for Human Rights. I got to discuss parts of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue released two weeks ago. Uganda had a few cases in there but one caught my attention. And since we just celebrated Heroes Day with more medals out (similar way we create districts), I thought the case of the Late Noble Mayombo was timely.
In report I found a case that hadn’t seen much in the media in Uganda. Joram Bintamanya, a journalist , Gerald Kankya and Prosper Businge who are members of Twerwaneho Listeners Club, a non-governmental carrying out human rights advocacy through radio programs in Toro area were arrested for talking about Mayombo’s death. This information, according to the report, was gathered last year.
On April 1 2010 Prosper Businge was summoned to Fort Portal police interrogated about a talk show he hosted on Better FM where Kankya and Bintamanya had requested government to release the report of investigations into the 2007 death of former permanent secretary of Defence Ministry Brig.Noble Mayombo. There was a team appointed by President Museveni regarding the death but not much has been heard from the team or a report.
The two human rights advocates like many in Uganda have had to report to police on weekly basis for interrogation on a case that would probably never stand in courts of law. Bintamanya was charged with sedition after a day in jail and according to the report the two men have faced threats and police has told them to abandon their human rights advocacy. The two men are being stopped from talking about the death of Mayombo, a subject that many people stay away from because his death has many theories around it.
They work outside Kampala so there’s a likelihood that their arrest and intimidation will not make it to many national media outlets yet these are the people making mind shifts in rural Uganda where we have limited civic awareness and limited knowledge of rights and state protection. Just like all the cases reported last year the government of Uganda has never responded to the queries into abuse of right of expression.
Having seen reports of more heroes’ medals it is only reasonable that we ask where the report on Mayombo’s death is. To my knowledge he was many peoples hero and many looked up to him. Why shouldn’t people talk about this subject in public when it is very much alive in private discussions?