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where security forces may be more deadly than coronavirus

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Eric Mutasiga’s mother, Joyce Namugalu Mutasiga, has to support his family after he was killed by police

In Uganda, at least 12 people have allegedly been killed by security officers enforcing measures to restrict the spread of coronavirus, while no-one has been killed by the virus itself. Patience Atuhaire has been meeting some of those affected by the violence.

Joyce Namugalu Mutasiga speaks to me as she fries small pancakes, known as kabalagala, over a woodfire, her words coming out in short, crisp sentences punctuated with long silences.

“Somebody is moving away from you and then you shoot him? At least they would have said sorry, because his life will never be back, and now I am going to struggle with the children,” she says, straining to bottle up her emotions.

The 65-year-old is now the main bread-winner for a family of eight.

Mrs Mutasiga wants the police to apologise over the death of her sonMrs Mutasiga wants the police to apologise over the death of her son
Mrs Mutasiga wants the police to apologise over the death of her son

Two of her grandchildren, aged three and five, too young to grasp the full scale of what has befallen them, run across the yard pointing to a car in the yard: “Take a photo of daddy’s car!”

In June, nearly three weeks after he was reportedly shot in the leg by a Ugandan policeman, Eric Mutasiga died from his wounds. His last moments were in an operating theatre in the country’s Mulago Hospital, according to his mother.

The 30-year-old headteacher was one of those allegedly killed by security forces enforcing a coronavirus lockdown.

Members of the security forces have been enforcing the lockdown measuresMembers of the security forces have been enforcing the lockdown measures
Members of the security forces have been enforcing the lockdown measures

The killings are believed to have been at the hands of policemen, soldiers and members of an armed civilian force called the Local Defence Unit (LDU).

Since March, they have been jointly manning roadblocks to ensure that people stick to the control measures, including a ban on motorcycle taxis (known locally as boda bodas) and a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

Many Ugandans are wary as they approach these roadblocks not knowing what might happen, but on 13 May trouble came to Mr Mutasiga’s home.

As well as running the Merrytime Primary school, the father of three had a small shop next to his home on the edge of Mukono, about an hour’s drive east of the capital, Kampala.

On that Wednesday, policemen and members of the LDU were arresting people found breaking the lockdown rules by working after 19:00.

‘You didn’t train me’

Mr Mutasiga’s employee, a young man working at the chapati stall outside the shop, had just been detained.

“I begged [the policemen] to forgive him. The two officers debated amongst themselves whether to let him go,” the headteacher later explained to local journalists.

Then, as people gathered round, things got heated.

“One of the policemen started to say I wasn’t the one who trained him. He said he could even shoot me.

“As I turned to leave, [one policeman] shot in the air. I turned to see what happened, and saw him aim directly at me.

“The bullet went right into my left leg and I fell. They got on their motorcycle really quickly and rode away.”

He made those comments as he was being wheeled into hospital – the police have not verified his account.

"Some family members have suggested we go to court. But the police have not revealed the shooter's identify, so who would I sue?"", Source: Joyce Namugalu Mutasiga, Source description: Victim's mother, Image: "Some family members have suggested we go to court. But the police have not revealed the shooter's identify, so who would I sue?"", Source: Joyce Namugalu Mutasiga, Source description: Victim's mother, Image:
“Some family members have suggested we go to court. But the police have not revealed the shooter’s identify, so who would I sue?””, Source: Joyce Namugalu Mutasiga, Source description: Victim’s mother, Image:

His family had hoped that he would make a full recovery.

“We stayed in hospital awaiting surgery, but every time we asked, the health workers told us that the wound was bad, they couldn’t operate,” his mother says.

Mr Mutasiga was eventually taken to the operating theatre on 8 June where he died, she adds.

The death certificate shows that he died directly from gunshot wounds.

Mrs Mutasiga stares at the ground, taking a moment to compose herself.

She feels let down by the entire government system, saying: “Some family members have suggested we go to court. But the police have not revealed the shooter’s identify, so who would I sue?”

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Farida Nanyonjo is angry.

Her brother, Robert Senyonga, died after being beaten.

Around midday on 7 July, she received a call from his employer. She was told that she had to get to the eastern city of Jinja fast, as Mr Senyonga had been repeatedly struck by the butt of a gun wielded by someone believed to be from the LDU for riding a motorcycle.

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The beating left the 20-year-old, who worked as a farm manager with multiple fractures to the skull.

Ms Nanyonjo got to him late at night and then returned with him to the capital, where he was referred to hospital.

“We made it to Mulago at about 2am, and spent the rest of the night on the ward floor. I approached a medical worker for help, but was asked for money. He was finally given a bed in the morning,” she says.

It took a lot of haggling, and a couple of days, before Mr Senyonga could be scheduled for surgery. And by then, it was too late.

‘Died in my arms’

“I am extremely angry. They beat him, but even the top hospital in the country could not give him proper medical care,” Ms Nanyonjo says.

“My brother died in my arms.”

For this family, the void left by their departed will be impossible to fill.

The LDU earned notoriety in the early 2000s when it was first created. Its personnel were accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings or of turning into gunmen for hire.

In the end it was demobilised. Ugandans were therefore apprehensive when it was revived in 2018.

Critics say the force puts guns in the hands of young, poorly trained people who are unable to reduce the tension in a confrontation.

The army has now withdrawn all LDU personnel from deployment, for retraining.

President Yoweri Museveni and other senior officials have condemned the reported attacks but when the BBC contacted the various security agencies implicated, none of them wished to give us a statement in response to the allegations.

Rights groups argue that the problem is systemic.

“We’ve found that security forces have been using Covid-19 and the measures put in place to prevent its spread as an excuse to violate human rights,” says Oryem Nyeko, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.

But these problems have been known for many years, he says, and “we need to explore reforming a system that emboldens people to commit abuses”.

Families say the judicial process is often too convoluted to navigate, but there have been successful prosecutions in two cases in the last five months. One involving a soldier and the other a member of the LDU.

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The soldier who killed Allen Musiimenta’s husband was jailed by a military court for 35 years after being found guilty of murder four days after the incident.

But she is not satisfied.

“The soldier got his punishment, but I won’t get my husband back,” Ms Musiimenta says.

Coronavirus in Uganda. Total number of cases. Total number of coronvirus cases in Uganda Figures were recalculated on 21 May.Coronavirus in Uganda. Total number of cases. Total number of coronvirus cases in Uganda Figures were recalculated on 21 May.
Coronavirus in Uganda. Total number of cases. Total number of coronvirus cases in Uganda Figures were recalculated on 21 May.

Benon Nsimenta, who was due to be ordained as a reverend in November, was gunned down on a highway in the western town of Kasese on 24 June.

He and his wife had set off for their village home on a motorbike. They had a document from a local councillor indicating that the vehicle was theirs and not a motorcycle taxi.

“The soldiers who stopped us didn’t even take a minute to ask questions. One of them crossed the road, raised his gun and shot my husband in the neck,” Ms Musiimenta says.

“We did our family projects together, talked through everything. We made plans for our children’s future. How I am supposed to pay for their education by working our small farm?” she trails off, overcome with emotion.

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Football coach Nelly Julius Kalema survived his alleged brush with the security forces – but only just.

On 8 July he was rushing a friend’s sick girlfriend, Esther, to a clinic on a motorcycle. It was already curfew time.

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They were allowed through a roadblock, but then some people on a motorcycle, who he says were policemen, waved them down.

Mr Kalema says he asked if he could find a safer place to stop just ahead. He says one man took out a baton and hit Esther hard on the neck. She screamed, and fell.

“I lost balance and rammed into a concrete slab, on which I hit my head,” he says, lying in a hospital bed.

The accident left him with a deep cut on the head, the scalp hanging by a few inches, that had to be stitched back. Esther survived with a broken leg and had to undergo surgery.

Nelly Julius Kalema's wound on his skull can be clearly seenNelly Julius Kalema's wound on his skull can be clearly seen
Nelly Julius Kalema’s wound on his skull can be clearly seen

The police declined to comment on his allegations.

When we met, Mr Kalema had been in hospital for nearly a week, his head constantly throbbing.

“I have been lying here thinking I shouldn’t have to feel lucky, because I had no fault in the accident. How many of us must die or be maimed before the security forces change their methods?” he wonders.

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Delhi government will prepare 5,000 health assistants in view of the third wave of corona

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, “In the first and second wave of corona we have seen shortage of medical and paramedical staff.

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Arvind Kejriwal speaking with media in his office in Delhi

In an important announcement today, the Delhi government said that it will prepare 5,000 health assistants as a precaution in the wake of the third wave of corona. Under this ambitious project of Delhi Government, Indraprastha University will start training the youth gradually.

Talking about this project, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, “In the first and second wave of corona we have seen a shortage of medical and paramedical staff. So the government has an ambitious plan, under which 5000 health assistants will be prepared.”

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Describing the outline of the project, Arvind Kejriwal said, “Indraprastha (IP) University will train 5000 youth sequentially for every 2 weeks. After that they will be given basic training in 9 premier medical institutes of Delhi.

Clearing doubts about the usefulness of health assistants prepared after just two weeks of training and training, Kejriwal said that these health assistants will work as assistants to doctor-nurse. They will be given basic training in nursing, paramedics, life saving, first aid and home care. Online applications for this can be filled from tomorrow, Thursday, June 17. The training will start from June 28. For this the qualification is 12th pass and age limit is more than 18 years.

This plan of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is prima facie looking very futuristic, but the reality will be known only after its implementation. It is to be known that with this announcement of Kejriwal, his critics have started to satire on this plan.

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency news helpline feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor

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NATIONAL

Notorious Chadar gang arrested in more than 100 incidents

This gang of Ghodasahan village of East Champaranya in Bihar state is infamous all over the country. In the dark of night, the gang comes in large numbers and lays blankets in front of the shop.

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Notorious Chadar gang arrested in more than 100 incidents

The Crime Branch of Meera Bhaidar Vasai Virar Police has arrested a gang of ‘Ghodasahans’ alias Chadar who have been dodging the police in different states of the country for the past several years. The gang used to be able to break the shutters of the shop with the sheets horizontally, the gang has more than a hundred crime cases registered in different states.

This gang of Ghodasahan village of East Champaranya in Bihar state is infamous all over the country. In the dark of night, the gang comes in large numbers and lays blankets in front of the shop. Other members break the shutters of the shop and burn the goods inside within a few minutes. They mainly stole watches, mobiles, and electronic items. They used to leave after stealing in the night. They used to sell stolen goods in Nepal. The gang had no means of communication, which made it difficult for the police to nab them. Meera Bhaidar Vasai Virar Police Commissionerate Crime Branch had received information about the gang. The police had received information that some gang members would come to rob the petrol pump. Under this, the police have arrested 10 members of the gang by laying a trap. Various weapons brought for loot and goods worth 1.5 lakh were seized from them.

Also Read: China launches crewed spacecraft Shenzhou-12 in the historic mission

Big success for MBVV Police:

With the help of Crime Branch Unit 2 officers and a team of police personnel, the Unit 3 team disguised as the petrol pump and laid a trap on Tuesday morning. Seven accused, who came to carry out the robbery, were caught by the gang, while three accused were caught running towards the Tulinj police station area in shorts and vests. One accused is still absconding in this case. Police arrested 10 accused 1) Naeem Hadith Devan 48 years old, 2) Vikram Kumar Premchand Prasad 25 years old, 3) Naeem Munna Dewan 25 years old, Suheb Ahmed 45 years old, Vijaykumar Mahato 25 years old, Aslam Sai 27 years old, Dharmendra Shahani 29 years old, Vikeshkumar Paswan 19-year-old, Rohikumar Paswan 19-year-old, Omnath Kumar Saha 24-year-old have recovered Rs 70,000 in cash and two knives. The 10 accused have been sent to 11-day police custody after being produced in the Vasai Court under police protection.

Recovered from:

After disclosing the case of Virar, Nalasopara, Dindoshi 3 police stations, mobile phone and cash amount of Rs 1 lakh 64 thousand 810 recovered. The gang had registered more than 100 cases of robbery and theft in various states of the country including Vasai Virar. He used to rake theft in the dark of night, and after some time he used to steal away. Crime Branch Police Inspector Pramod Badakh told that he used to sell stolen goods in Nepal as well. Arresting this gang was a big challenge. However, after a thorough investigation by our police, the gang has been caught red-handed, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime) Mahesh Patil said.

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency news helpline feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor

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International

China launches crewed spacecraft Shenzhou-12 in the historic mission

Shenzhou-12 is the third of 11 missions – four of which will be crewed – needed to complete China’s first full-fledged space station. Construction began in April with the launch of Tianhe, the first and largest of three modules.

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China

China launched a spacecraft on Thursday carrying three astronauts to part of a space station still under construction for the longest stay in low Earth orbit by any Chinese national.

A Long March 2F rocket transporting the Shenzhou-12, or “Divine Vessel”, bound for the space station module Tianhe blasted off at 9:22 a.m. Beijing time (0122 GMT) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern Gansu province.

Shenzhou-12 is the third of 11 missions – four of which will be crewed – needed to complete China’s first full-fledged space station. Construction began in April with the launch of Tianhe, the first and largest of three modules.

The astronauts Nie Haisheng, 56, Liu Boming, 54, and Tang Hongbo, 45, are to work and stay on Tianhe, the living quarters of the future space station, for three months. The men will also be monitored for how they fare in space physically and psychologically for an extended period of time. An upcoming mission to the space station will last six months.

“This will be the first crewed flight in the space station (construction) phase, and I’m lucky to be able to have the ‘first baton’,” Nie told reporters in Jiuquan a day before the launch.

The Long March-2F Y12 rocket, carrying the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft and three astronauts, takes off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center for China’s first manned mission to build its space station, near Jiuquan, Gansu province, China June 17, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
The Long March-2F Y12 rocket, carrying the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft and three astronauts, takes off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center for China’s first manned mission to build its space station, near Jiuquan, Gansu province, China June 17, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins
Chinese astronauts Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming speak before the launch of the Long March-2F Y12 rocket, carrying the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft and the three astronauts, from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center for China’s first manned mission to build its space station, near Jiuquan, Gansu province, China June 17, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The veteran astronaut has been hailed by his team as a bastion of stability and a teacher figure who constantly challenges others with tough questions. “As long as we have him in our hearts, we have nothing to fear,” fellow astronaut Wang Yaping, who is part of the Shenzhou-12 backup team, told state media previously.

“In our crew, elder brother Nie is like the needle that stills the sea,” she said.

Liu Boming, like Nie, was from the first batch of astronauts selected in the 1990s for China’s space programme. Known for his intellect, Liu is often addressed by his colleagues as “Little Zhuge”, the renowned military strategist who lived in China two millennia ago.

On the Shenzhou-7 mission in 2008, Liu famously used a crowbar to pry open the hatch after it refused to open.

Former air force pilot Tang Hongbo, 45, was from a later batch of astronauts, and trained for more than a decade before being selected for his first spaceflight on Shenzhou-12.

“I’ve waited for 11 years, and finally I’m ready, and I can contribute my strength,” Tang told reporters on Wednesday.

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