Even as the Ugandan campaigns for January 14, 2021 elections reach a crescendo, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s government seems to be doing away with any dissenting voices through frustrations.
The latest to face Museveni’s wrath was Isaack Otieno Okero, a Kenyan national who had gone to Uganda as an election observer representing the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).
IFES is a US-based NGO that engages in advancement of democracy.
Mr Okero was staying in Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, and had stayed there for two weeks, when he was informed that he had visitors.
The visitors, he was informed by the hotel service, were armed forces from the government who had come to arrest him.He was advised not to resist.
Sunday Nation reports that they came in two lorries, some in uniform, some not, and most of them heavily armed.
When Mr Okero arrived at the reception, he was immediately arrested and taken back to his room at gunpoint. The officers ransacked his room and took away his passport, phones, laptop and money in form of US dollars.
He was then bundled into a waiting car and driven immigration jail in Kampala, where he found other detainees awaiting deportation, mostly Nigerians and Eritreans.
Luckily, the other detainees had smuggled in a phone, and Mr Okero used it to inform his family and Kenyan authorities, who tried to intervene.
Reports indicate that Kenyan Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo called the Kenyan High Commissioner in Uganda who tried to intervene, but failed.
Also, US ambassador tried to secure Mr Okero’s release but failed.
Ugandan authorities were getting worried about the publicity the arrest was gaining and wanted Mr Okero out of the country as soon as possible, before the media got wind of the matter.
He was driven to Busia border, where there was a standoff since the authorities could not justify the deportation, and they had also denied him a chance to use his return ticket.
His passport, phones and laptop were then returned to him, but not the cash. The IFES official was eventually admitted by the immigration officials and travelled to Nairobi.
Before he joined IFES, Mr Okero had worked with the International Development Law Organisation (IDLO) in Nairobi.
Another observer, Ms Roseline Idele, was denied entry into the country in September. Ms Idele is the acting country director of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Uganda.