Land rights defenders charged with criminal trespass, released on police bond
Kiryandongo – Uganda – Police in Kiryandongo has finally succumbed to pressure and released three (3) land rights defenders on police bond after being charged with criminal trespass on their own property. The trio was released on April, 1st, and required to report back on April, 7th, 2020.
Otyaluk David Richard and Olupot James have been detained for 7 days each whereas Sipiriano Baluma has been incarcerated for 10 days.
Otyaluk David Richard and Olupot James were arbitrarily arrested on March 25th by soldiers and a group of Kiryandongo Sugar workers.
On a fateful day, Four (4) Uganda People Defense Forces (UPDF) officers backing and guarding Kiryandongo Sugar Company fired live bullets and arrested the duo before being manhandled and beaten.
The Kiryandongo Sugar tractor under the protection of UPDF soldiers entered the property of Otyaluk and plowed through his 4 acres of maize garden. When Otyaluk went to stop the tractor from destroying his garden, UPDF soldiers arrested and started beating him.
It took some minutes for Otyaluk’s wife and Olupot to intervene. She said, they found Otyaluk being beaten and when Olupot took out his camera to take photos of UPDF soldiers and workers of the company involved in beating Otyaluk, he (Opolot) was grabbed and soldiers attempted to strangle him.
I witnessed UPDF soldiers shooting near Olupot’s leg and shouting, “if you take our photos we shall kill you”. In a few seconds, I saw both of them being forced to sit down” said Otyaluk’s wife, Atuko Jennifer.
Meanwhile, Sipiriano Baluma was arrested on March 22nd, 2020 by Kimogola police where he had gone to open up the case of animals destroying his food crops. Later he was transferred to Kiryandongo police station where he has been detained for 10 days without appearing before any competent court.
Otyaluk David Richard, Olupot James, and Sipiriano Baluma have joined a long list of land rights defenders in Kiryandongo facing judicial persecution, police harassment, intimidation amid COVID-19 lockdown which has caused the absence of criminal justice systems and manpower.