Minister of State for Internal Affairs, David Muhoozi, has claimed that the senior leadership of the National Unity Platform (NUP) hindered relatives of missing persons from speaking to the police, which has resulted in unresolved cases of missing individuals.
Muhoozi made these remarks while reporting on the state of human rights in the country, in response to demands from opposition MPs for a government response on the matter.
According to Muhoozi, "The next of kin of the reported missing persons did not cooperate with the police investigators. The police team had to pose as members of an NGO in order to interview these individuals."
For instance, he cited the case of Nabakooza Florence, the next of kin of Wangolo Dennis, also known as Shafik, who declined to meet with investigators, stating that she had received instructions from NUP not to engage with anyone.
Muhoozi dismissed the statement that Uganda is among the worst human rights abusers as sweeping, unsubstantiated, and false.
He criticised the Leader of the Opposition, Mathias Mpuuga, for making false and generalised claims about Uganda's human rights record.
Muhoozi emphasised that the government's enduring policy and conviction are to respect and protect human rights.
He stated that if there are allegations of abuses by individual agents of the government or even private citizens, they should be addressed specifically, rather than in a casual and generalised manner.
The Minister also urged individuals with evidence regarding the killings of civilians during the November 2020 protests to provide this evidence to investigative bodies.
Muhoozi revealed that the government is still conducting investigations to verify the registration of Police Truck 17, which was allegedly involved in the killing of civilians during the November 2020 protests in downtown Kampala.
Regarding the failure to resolve cases of missing persons, Muhoozi blamed the reluctance of families and relatives to report these cases to the police.
He noted that most of the alleged disappearances were never officially reported.
"It is the law and official practice that for someone to be declared a missing person, a missing person's report must be filed. This can only be done with the police, but it wasn't done, and people approached are still resisting," Muhoozi explained.
The government has also accused NUP of running a smear campaign, claiming that state kidnappings are being used by the opposition to seek visas to go abroad. Minister David Muhoozi questioned why the victims of these kidnappings never recorded the number plates of the vehicles involved.
"It has been established that there is a well-orchestrated smear campaign to assist people seeking livelihood opportunities abroad, claiming political persecution and/or persecution based on their sexual orientation. Unfortunately, these false claims against the government are sometimes believed by gullible individuals in host countries without verification," said Muhoozi.
The government also denied allegations that Muslims are being targeted and arrested for various crimes due to their religious affiliations, describing such accusations as an attempt by individuals to use their religion to evade justice.
"Uganda is a secular country. Participation in crime, in all its forms, is an individual choice. Any attempt to seek refuge in ethnicity, religion, gender, or political affiliation to evade criminal liability is misleading and untenable," stated Muhoozi.
Muhoozi provided statistics from the Uganda Prisons Service as of September 30, 2023, indicating that Muslims constitute only 6.4% of the inmates in all Uganda Prisons, with Catholics at 43% and Protestants at 29.5%.
He argued that it is not true that the number of Muslims in prisons is higher than that of other denominations. He also dismissed the notion that Catholics and Protestants are targeted based on their faith, based on the statistics provided by the Uganda Prisons Service.
Yesterday, opposition members returned to the plenary sitting of Parliament after a month-long boycott, during which they demanded that the government address pressing human rights concerns.
The prolonged absence of opposition MPs aimed to draw attention to the urgent need for dialogue and effective measures to protect the fundamental rights of all citizens.