Sixteen days after their arrest and remand to Luzira prison, the two youths who staged last month’s yellow-pigs protest at parliament have shared their experience in incarceration.
Norman Tumuhimbise and Robert Mayanja, members of the little-known Jobless Brotherhood, on Wednesday spoke to The Observer from Luzira’s Murchison Bay prison, where they have spent the last two weeks. Clad in the yellow prisoner uniforms, Committal 102 (Tumuhimbise) and Committal 128 (Mayanja) appeared composed as they recounted events surrounding their daring protest.
Their only worry is the magistrate rejecting their bail application when they return to court.
“The magistrate acted strangely [on the day we were remanded] because he was the one who told us that we are entitled to bail and asked if we had sureties,” Mayanja said.
“About 20 shot up, and then surprisingly, the magistrate turned around and remanded us because we had no lawyers in court.”
The duo is expected to reappear before the City Hall magistrate Erias Kakooza today for consideration of their bail application. Tumuhimbise and Mayanja were arrested on June 17 after they beat security and walked into parliament with two piglets doused in yellow paint to protest against corruption in government and youth unemployment.
They wore white T-shirts with red inscriptions of their protest message, which they now say was a response to President Museveni’s state-of-the-nation address.
Tumuhimbise’s T-shirt, which had the words “the true state of the nation”, listed sums of money spent on what the youths consider unworthy causes.
These are: Shs 36bn spent on construction of parliament’s parking lot, Shs 1bn spent on buying iPads for MPs and Shs 38.6bn for the lawmakers’ vehicles.
Also listed on the T-shirt was Shs 3bn the government reportedly spent on Museveni’s 2011 swearing-in motorcade.
Mayanja’s T-shirt on the other hand had the following message: “We won’t shut up over: Youth desertion, exploitation and unemployment.”
The concluding message was: “Don’t lead us into temptation.”
The T-shirts were confiscated by the police for use as exhibits in court, leaving the youths half-naked throughout the four days they spent in police cells.
While interrogation was done at parliament, in the evening they would be transferred to Kampala Central Police Station (CPS) for night detention.
“There was a lot of confusion at police because the [interrogating] officers seemed not to be in control they were working on overlapping orders given to them on phone,” Mayanja told us.
“At some point there was an officer who moved in and wanted to grab us and take us away, and another one moved in and stopped him.”
While at CPS, the duo received a number of visitors but not all of them were allowed in, Tumuhimbise said. The visitors were mostly politicians and civil society activists with messages of encouragement.
“Interestingly, we have met people from NRM who told us that much as they are in government, they are supportive of our cause,” Tumuhimbise added.
This writer’s interaction with the suspects was closely monitored by a prison warder. Mid-way, a stout man wearing inmates’ uniform came in and stood by, just before the prison warder signaled time up.
“Let’s wait for Friday [in court] and see how it will end, but we are not going back on our campaign,” Mayanja said.
The pigs are due for public auction by the police. The auction had been scheduled for last Monday at the Kireka Special Investigations Unit (SIU) headquarters but it was abruptly called off.
Deputy police spokesperson Polly Namaye was quoted saying that police would communicate another date for the auction. But the owners say they will take on the police if their piglets are sold off.
“We hear the police wants to sell off our pigs they should not be tempted to do so because we bought them expensively and for a purpose,” said Mayanja.”We want our pigs.”
Tumuhimbise jokingly added: “Those are hybrid pigs, a special breed, [except for] those who have ever seen a yellow pig!”
The youths’ protest and subsequent detention has won them the support of civil society groups, some of which are offering free legal services. The Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda (ACCU) is leading other CSOs, mainly those engaged in the anti-graft Black Monday movement, in this effort.
Thanks to the CSOs, the youths have secured the services of Isaac Ssemakadde Kimaze, the chief executive officer of Legal Brains Trust, among other aocates.
“Their campaign is part of the activism against corruption, so we want to give them moral and professional support [because] we don’t want anything that stifles activism and protests,” Ssemakadde said on Wednesday.
He added: “To protest is not a crime, people should be free to protest as colourfully and as creatively as they can it is their constitutional right.”
Source : The Observer