I met Daoudi’s mother outside Kampala four years ago, after military police shooting live rounds to quell protests had killed her 13-year-old son. Daoudi was struck in the head when a bullet ripped through a refrigerator in his family’s shop. As she showed me the scorched bullet holes, Daoudi’s days-old baby sister lay swaddled in blankets nearby.
Daoudi was one of many killed over two days of demonstrations around Kampala in September 2009. Chaos erupted when government officials prevented the cultural leader of the Buganda ethnic groupfrom traveling to a contested area. His supporters filled the streets; security forces responded with lethal force. In some spots, protesters threw stones and set debris and unoccupied vehicles alight.Police and military shot live rounds from armored personnel carriers, descending to pursue alleged protesters on foot, shooting into locked homes and shops, killing those cowering inside.
The death toll is still unclear. Hospital records and human rights investigations put the total at over 40, mostly by gunfire. The internal affairs minister admitted to parliament that 27 people had been killed. In the 13 incidents investigated by Human Rights Watch, government forces shot live ammunitions where lethal force was clearly unnecessary and unjustified.
Yet four years later, there have been no criminal investigations into the police and military conduct, despite numerous official promises. A parliamentary committee mandated to examine the incidents stalled, failing to call any witnesses. The police response to protesters’ alleged wrongdoing was overwhelming – almost 850people were chargedwith crimes such as unlawful assembly and inciting violence. Eleven faced terrorism charges, only to be acquitted – but only after three years in a maximum-security prison. In a scathing judgment, the judge labeled the police investigation “incurably tainted, rendering the prosecution a nullity.”
Instead of providing a secure environment in which Ugandans can exercise their rights to free assembly, speech, and association, Ugandan security forces have repeatedly resortedto lethal force against protesters and bystanders without clear justification. Investigations never materialize.
Last year I visited Daoudi’s mother. “I have not seen justice,” she told us. “No one has come out to tell me why my child was shot dead. As we console ourselves for the loss of our 13-year-old, I doubt if justice will ever come our way. They killed him and closed the chapter.”