With respect, let it be known from the onset that I challenge this Committee’s jurisdiction to investigate matters alleged to have happened outside the precincts of Parliament. As such, I am here only out of the respect I have for you my colleagues and this institution, but not necessarily to defend myself.
Nevertheless, and only for record purposes, may it also be known that I consider the allegations against me to be malicious, unfounded and in bad faith. Similarly, these particular proceedings are unfair to me because they are borne out of an incurable conflict of interest.
On the 8th of February 2022, I was shocked and deeply hurt when the Rt. Hon. Deputy Speaker made a very cruel joke about me as a torture victim. That day as she presided over a debate about the rampant torture of citizens by security forces, Rt. Hon. Anita Among stated that,
_“Much as [Hon. Zaake] was tortured – as you have said – he was able to win a gold medal in athletics with a broken leg”._
Mr. Chairperson, those comments are on the Hansard. The Deputy Speaker made them in reference to the recent East African Parliamentary games during which I won a gold medal.
Even when listened to objectively, those comments suggested that either the Deputy Speaker thinks that:
(a) I have been lying about being tortured; or
(b) that I exaggerated the extent of injuries I suffered on each of the five (5) times I have been mercilessly tortured in the last 4 years; or
(c) that torture is a blessing in disguise for its victims and is as such a trivial matter in this Country.
Mr. Chairperson, some social media comments allegedly responding to the Speaker’s insensitive joke have been attributed to me in recent days, although without any technical proof that I made them.
It is on account of that alleged but unproven social media response that the same Deputy Speaker who made fun of my pain and humiliation referred me to this Committee for “trial”.
It is also on account of that alleged response that my Honourable colleagues especially from the ruling Party are now mobilizing themselves into a vicious mob to lynch me, on the floor of Parliament, in a session presided over by the same Deputy Speaker, regardless of the outcome of these proceedings.
To them, apparently, the alleged response claimed to have been made by me is worse than the several occasions I was left lying on the cold floor in a pool of my own blood after a session of torture.
So, I hope you understand when I say that I believe these proceedings are not intended to establish the truth. Their purpose is to knot the rope with which the mob, after lynching me, will hang me to fit the narrative that I committed suicide.
As a member of the political opposition in this country, that is a narrative I have painfully borne on more occasions than any law-abiding citizen would wish to. So, how soon they lynch me is up to their conscience, for I have made peace with that fate; and my conscience is clear.
After all, I was already found guilty of these allegations even before the matter first came up on the floor of Parliament: On 11th February, my security detail, to which I am entitled as a Commissioner of Parliament, was unceremoniously withdrawn without any explanation. That was my first punishment, Mr. Chairperson.
Mr. Chairperson and colleagues, I was already a Member of Parliament on all the occasions that I have been tortured by national security officers. On three of those occasions, I was tortured by members of the Special Forces Command (SFC), the military outfit that guards Mr. Yoweri Museveni and some leaders of Parliament. For context, please allow me to speak about each of them:
1. In September 2017, I was attacked and beaten into coma by members of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces. This happened right on the floor of this Parliament.
2. In August 2018, SFC soldiers broke into my hotel room in Arua District. They punched and kicked me. Clobbered me with big sticks. Cut me with gun bayonets. They plucked flesh and nails off my body using pliers, and then dragged me down the stairs before dumping me at a Police station to die.
3. In April 2020 while at home in my constituency, police and military officers led by RPC Bob Kagarura and DPC Mwiine Alex Mukono broke into my bedroom, beat and handcuffed me, and then dragged me by the trousers out of the house as my children, wife and mother watched in terror.
In the next moments, the officers emptied a can of pepper spray into my eyes, and then chained my legs and hands together while they clobbered me. They suspended my body in the space beneath the seats of a police truck, and then drove me from Mityana to Kampala in agonizing pain.
Every now and then during that dreadful journey, the officers seated above me would poke me with sharp objects while mocking and laughing at me.
Once in Kampala, they detained me incommunicado in a safe house for more than a week. During that time, they subjected me to a daily beating using objects including what felt like a big stick lined with barbed wire. Court in *H.C.M.C. No. 85 of 2020_ confirmed that I was tortured, but refused to hold accountable the men who violated me.
4. In January 2021, I was brutalized and left unconscious by soldiers outside the home of my President H. E. Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu whom I had gone to visit while in detention at his home after the 2021 presidential elections.
5. The most recent incident happened a few weeks ago on 14th December 2021. On that day, SFC soldiers attacked me as I campaigned for my fellow party member Ms. Harriet Nakwedde who was contesting for the position of LC5 Chairperson in Kayunga District. They mercilessly flogged me and that defenseless lady using thick electric wires and long sticks (enkoni) commonly used to herd cattle. It should be noted that even if I was already a Commissioner of this Parliament by that time, Parliament did not bother investigating the incident.
So, Mr. Chairperson and colleagues, if you were the victims of this repeated torture, as I am, you would understand how hurt and furious I felt watching my Speaker making a mockery of the life-threatening torture I have repeatedly suffered without justice.
This is someone with whom I sit in Parliamentary Commission meetings. She has an opportunity to see from close range the deep, multiple scars of torture I have on my body that even my otherwise dark skin complexion cannot hide.
The multiple incidents of torture have left me with haunting post-traumatic stress disorder. I can no longer fall asleep with lights off, let alone without music playing. I can no longer stand with the soles of my feet firmly fixed on the ground. My children now stand with their feet twisted at an angle because in their innocence they think it is “cool” to stand that way.
I have had to incur medical expenses over and beyond my Parliamentary insurance cover. I have spent several agonizing weeks in hospital undergoing treatment after being tortured which has traumatized my wife and children.
Despite going through all that, I constantly get cruel remarks from Government officials and security spokespersons asserting that I faked the torture. The last person I expected such cruelty from was the Speaker of Parliament because she is a wife, a mother, and the head of an institution that should be doing everything possible to rehabilitate me instead of victimizing me further.
If you were me, you would understand how hard it is for me not to think that she should be the one appearing before this Committee, but not me. Nevertheless, I forgive her. I forgive her not just for making fun of my plight, but also for the mob justice she is about to preside over against me.
For God and My Country.
Zaake Francis is the MP Mityana Municipality / Commissioner of Parliament
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