Today, I almost met “orders from above”. You see, while I had my lunch, I received one of those routine phone calls, saying a journalist had been arrested and detained. The person went on to say, that the charges were unclear and that the journalist was at Kabalagala police station. Well, my mum warned me against wasting food so I decided that there was no hurry, after all, it was Kabalagala police, if you know what I mean. Anyhow, I get to the station at about 3pm and I met a group of about 5 journalists, who had camped there from 10am, trying in vain to secure their friend’s release. Together with the colleagues I’d travelled with, we started exchanging pleasantries and tried to understand the goings-on. Out of the blue emerged a one short and stout gun wielding Mwesigye. He shouted in his rudest voice, ” you people, get out of here or go under the mango tree, we dont allow meetings here at the police station.” In unison, we all turned to look at him, with gasped mouths. Flanked by a one kilama, they continued to attempt to push us out. In summary, they died in their own movie, discontinued by the O.C Station, who apologized and took us to his office; atleast they now understand that a police station is a public place and not their private lounge. Ok, now came the most confusing session. What are the charges? Response by O.C “I don’t know infact, I’ve not seen the file blablabla….so can we see the suspect?blablabla, let me come back bla! He exits, returning after several minutes. we resume…..so what’s the offence? Silence….and more silence. Ok, can we look at the file? I don’t have it. Ok, who has it so we can follow up? Silence. Lawyering continues under this law and that law, the constitution mandates….he says “i have no comment”. Dead end. I walk to the counter with 2 colleagues, “sir can I see suspect? Yes, wait. Suspect is called out. Before I even start talking to him, policeman says, go to that corner, only 2 minutes and he must go back to cell. I tell him he must be joking, he tells me ” we shall see who is joking, he says, before he emphasised 2 minutes. We walked past him, with suspect and sat ourselves in the boss’ sofas, not for 2minutes, but for as long as we needed to understand the matter. Realizing that we were hitting a dead end, and the suspect was going to spend the night in cells, people started calling people; IGP, not responding, kaweesi, aid responds and says call later, big man in meeting, other top officers…eh that case, it’s orders from above, we can’t help. who is orders from above? So I call someone I think may know orders from above, and they are like they didnt know what to do with orders from above. Finally, I get the contacts of the complainant, a minister in government. It is about 7pm and after several attempts, I finally get thru. “Good evening honourable, my name is Cathy, counsel to so and so. I’m at the police station over a complaint you filed…..minister switches me off. 5minutes later minister calls me back. “Cathy I’m out of the country, I filed a complaint against journalist, he sent me a message which i shared with police…..the way police handles it is beyond me….anyway we spoke for about 15minutes. Shortly after the phone call, orders from above calls the police station, ordering the release of suspect….further ordering the suspect to appear at “orders from aboves” office. Today I learnt that above has a department called the “compliance” department, where orders from above has to do further interrogations. Well, the sms in question was asking Mr. Minister to give his side of the story in an alleged land wrangle, where it is claimed he grabbed land. The sms apparently came as a result of his failure to pick calls. His response was running to orders from above to intervene, prompting orders from above to charge journalist with criminal defamation before he even published the story. Today charges changed to threatening violence!
Its been a long evening but i salute you all in the name of orders from above!
By Anite Cathy