Entebbe. A man in Entebbe has accused a Special Forces soldier of stripping, torturing and rolling him in urine after he answered nature’s call near the residence of the First Daughter, Ms Patience Rwabwogo.
In his statement to the police, Mr Musa Ssali, 30, said he had just bypassed the presidential guards, who he greeted, when he branched off to pee in a vacant plot on June 1.
Four soldiers, the casual labourer added, surrounded him and inquired what he was doing. Mr Ssali’s early dash home to break his fast in this holy month of Ramadhan turned horrific after one of the soldiers, against his colleagues’ counsel, struck him first on the head before ordering him to remove his trousers and roll where he had urinated.
“A short light skinned man who seemed to be their leader, and speaking in Runyankole which I don’t understand, told me byaama (lie down). I asked him to either speak to me in Luganda or English. He instead hit me on the head and continued kicking and slapping me,” he told this newspaper in an interview.
Neighbours looked on as the soldiers gave the man a beating. One of the witnesses, however, rushed to Mr Ssali’s home and alerted his wife about the predicament of her husband.
A senior Special Forces officer yesterday did not respond to the specific allegations by Mr Ssali, but asked him to report the matter to their headquarters within Entebbe Town for inquiries and appropriate sanction.
“I have always tried to help these people. You might find some of the soldiers engaged in acts of indiscipline and, if so, [they] will be punished,” said Capt Frank Murema, the director for Civil-Military Co-operation in SFC.
The elite Force, he said, does not condone torture or indiscipline of its personnel.
In yesterday’s interview, corroborated with his account to police, Mr Ssali said the errant soldier forced him to roll in the mud several times while slapping and kicking him. In the process, his arm was fractured.
“I was too weak to walk and my arm was paining. Remember I was fasting and very weak. I kept falling but one of the four soldiers could not hear my pleas or those of his colleagues. He continued to beat me until one of his colleagues helped me up,” he said.
Mr Ssali was then ordered to slash the bush around the guard house which he said had some twigs that required a machete. When he asked for one, Mr Ssali said the soldier instead struck his legs, the arms and buttocks.
By now, the other soldiers were fed up with the action of their colleague and pleaded with him to let Mr Ssali go but in vain. The soldier ordered him to pick rubbish strewn in the vicinity.
“I refused to pick the used alcohol sachets because I was fasting and alcohol is against my religion (Islam). I was beaten, but I refused to do it.”
That evening, Mr Ssali said he had to break his fast by chewing a stalk of grass.
Soaked in mud and feeling pain all over his body, Mr Ssali said he was released after 8pm and had to limp to the local chairperson’s home to report the incident. The chairperson was not at his home.
That night, he said his wife used warm water and salt to nurse his bruised body.
Mr Ssali said he did not have enough money to seek treatment at a hospital and instead bought some drugs over the counter at Kitoro Trading Centre, about 3km from his home.
When he narrated his ordeal to his employer, he was advised to file a complaint with police at CPS Entebbe.
After recording a statement under reference SD Ref 70/02/06/2017, police asked him to go for examination at Entebbe General Hospital and submit a report of the medical findings.
He did not have the Shs20,000 required for the examination. A health worker, Mr Ssali said, volunteered to him information about a number of unresolved cases of other patients who allege that SFC soldiers tortured them.
“He advised me to forget [pursuing] the soldiers because nothing would happen to them even if I tried,” he said.
Mr Ssali said he planned to sell one of his goats or get a loan from his boss to raise the money for the medical examination but after the doctor’s advice, he decided against it.
“I don’t want their [SFC] help or money, but a week doesn’t go by without them beating up people outside this home. All I ask is [that] they be stopped from torturing people,” he said.
SFC director Murema could not comment on separate reports that soldiers deployed to beef up security around Kasenyi Landing Site in Katabi Town Council have imposed an informal curfew and manhandle civilians found in breach.
He said soldiers from different branches of the UPDF are deployed in Entebbe and its neighbourhoods and it would be premature to pinpoint the Special Forces.