Uganda: September 16th, The Murder of Oloya Peter alias Yumbe, a Decade Later

September 16th, 2012

Ten years ago on September 16th, Oloya Peter alias Yumbe, then a murder suspect in Gulu Central Prisons was, in the words of Justice Augustus Kania ‘murdered in cold blood’ by UPDF soldiers inside the Prisons facility after a gruesome raid which saw 21 Prisoners abducted and locked in the 4th Division barracks in Gulu. I was in the same Prison as a treason suspect.
It was a Friday, 16th September 2002 and a visitation day in the Prisons. A cloudy dull day it was and the prisoners as usual were sitting in anticipation of seeing their dear ones visit. Yumbe as he was popularly known was a tall chocolate brown husband of two always full of humor. A hard working businessman who had been reduced to a prisoner in his late twenties charged together with Otim Stephen Olanya with murder.
On that day he had received from home four legs and a head of goat and had it prepared for dinner, little did he know that that would turn out to be his last supper, the very last meal he would eat on planet earth. As the day went on, another suspect Ocheng David Penyto was brought as co-accused to me, Lukwiya Pido, Otim Alex who had already been together charged with treason and remanded to this Prison bringing to a total of six, Uganda Young Democrats activists in Gulu locked up in Prisons. The six friends settled on the veranda of Ward three where Yumbe and Pido were residing for their meal, the goat’s legs and head which had been prepared by Yumbe. The meal which turned out to be a fare well to Yumbe as events of the night would later dictate.
Soon it was time for ‘lock up’ and all prisoners went to their respective wards to sleep. I stood inside my Ward and saw Yumbe standing inside Ward three. He waved good night to me, good night to you l answered with a wave which lasted for about three minutes. In the middle of the night the tragedy struck. It was quiet and the lights were on inside the Prisons. A loud noise and banging of doors and tables and sounds of slaps, kicks and wailing could be heard from the Gate lodge and the Office of the Officer in Charge of the Prisons which is about ten meters from Ward two and three. Clear to my ears was the demand that ‘the six’ be handed over. Soon the small gate leading to the boma was opened as soldiers armed to the teeth stormed the Prisons compound with one Prisons Officer being ordered to open the wards. Ward one was opened and from it Otim Alex and Otim Stephen Olanya were ordered out, then Ward two from where l and five others were ordered out as the raiders headed to Ward three which was directly opposite Ward two. While there, Yumbe, Pido and another suspect were ordered out. Dressed in a yellow prisons uniform short and shirt Yumbe obeyed the orders to come out, soon there after a brief scuffle occurred, there was a heavy loud voice ordering in Kiswahili language ‘nani wuyo, piga, piga yeye’ literally meaning ‘who is that one? Shoot him’. In seconds, bullets started raining inside the Prisons boma as we were ordered to enter the gate lodge. There we found Mr Onyai the Regional Prisons Commander sitting on the floor holding his head in pain and grief. We were ruthlessly beaten, kicked and eventually dragged into a waiting UPDF truck parked outside and guarded by ‘Mambas’, and ‘Bafalos’, all armored vehicles, with one of them flushing very bright lights directly at the Prisons gate. We were ordered to sleep in the water logged truck facing down, but l disobeyed and faced up, mindful of the risk l would put my life in as an asthmatic person.
More prisoners were led into the truck from ward four, five, six and seven. All of them treason suspects arrested from Pabbo Sub-county. The prisoners from ward four and five were ordered to carry the body of Yumbe who had been short dead inside the Prisons. The first thing l saw was his hands swinging as his heavy body was being bundled onto the truck, then his head followed as his body was pushed forward, his right hand landed on my legs as blood from his bullet wounds oozed out flowing and mixing with the water already in the truck. Next to me and on my right side was Olanya who was being beaten, kicked pulled and mocked to have sex with one Lagulu a female in-mate who had been brought into the lorry from the Females wing of the same Prisons. The truck drove off under heavy escorts to a place which l later learnt to be the 4th Divisions quarter guard cells and we were ordered to come out of the truck amidst more beatings. As l got up, Yumbe my friend and brother with whom we had just a few hours ago eaten from the same sauce pans and exchanged a good night waves did not. He lay dead with a big hollow wound in his chest. He was bare chaste with only a yellow prisons pair of shorts. I lifelessly jumped off the truck and left my friend never to see him again as the trucked soon droved out of the quarter guard with his dead body.”
This is an extract from a book “MY TRUE LIFE” which is currently being edited. Indeed it is ten years now but the nights of every September 16th appear to be the same as that of 2002. I see Yumbe and feel his humor; his voice is fresh in my minds. It is the only night when l am sure of what l will dream of in my ‘sleep’. My pain is compounded further by the fact that even after a High Court and Court of Appeal ruled that the deceased family be compensated with just 40 Million Shillings for the death of their bread earner, ten years down the road not a penny has been paid. The family of once a strong businessman now lives as paupers, his children not able to attain any qualifications thereby darkening further their future. We were many that night and all of us could have been killed and our bodies dumped somewhere together with Yumbe’s, but God chose Yumbe and spared us for reasons only known to him.

As it clocks ten years, don’t we as friends, political leaders, advocates of human rights, religious leaders, N.G.Os and well wishers have something we can do to support the family? It may not be money, but how about using our positions to prevail over Government to pay the little which Court ordered, or just visiting the family or better still remembering them in our prayers. Can’t we make September 16TH a day for remembering all the innocent victims of war in this Country?