Three climate activists, Evelyn Acham, Abitimo Becca and Paphras Ayebale were on Friday arrested and detained for “spreading awareness on climate justice” outside the Parliament building.
The activists were later released with a condition that they will not be striking again in any public place.
The three activists are part of a climate activism group called Rise Up Movement that was started by Vanessa Nakate, who is one of the 2021 TIME100 Next influential people in the world. The movement aims to create awareness on climate change in Uganda and beyond.
According to Ayebale, the group is currently running a campaign called “I can’t breath, the air is polluted,” and on every Friday, they create awareness about the dangers of a polluted atmosphere, in order to force policy makers and government into action.
The campaign however took a different turn yesterday.
“We thought of a spot where there are crowds we chose the parliament vicinity… we thought this was a perfect spot. Becca and Acham were holding the placards while I was holding the camera,”Ayebale narrated.
As they started taking photos, Ayebale says that a police officer approached them, asked what they were doing, and gave them a nod after explaining their campaign. Little did they know of what was yet to come; an arrest.
“Out of the blue, over 20 officers putting on different police uniforms surrounded us from every direction. They held me by my trouser and both my phones were confiscated as they dragged us inside Parliament premises,” he said.
Inside Parliament, Ayebale says that he was ordered to remove his belt and shoes, while his colleagues were ordered to sit down, while being quizzed about what they were doing.
“One officer who was in command asked for our names, took pictures of us and told us to watch out because they could do anything to us and no one will ever know,” Ayebale said.
Nakate, who leads the Rise Up Movement later came with a team which negotiated their release. The three were however cautioned never hold a strike of any kind, including a climate strike in any public space.
In her interview with Nile Post last year, Nakate said that black activists cannot enjoy the same privilege as their European and Asian colleagues, due to politics.
Nakate noted that people from Africa cannot, for example, organise strikes and protests the same way Europeans can because of the “politics and how risky it is.”