Wednesday, July 20, 2011

HRNJ-Uganda alert: radio presenter goes missing

Lira, 19th/July/2011; Augustine Okello a presenter with Lira based radio Rhino has gone missing.
Okello a.k.a Rouks, who joined radio Rhino five years ago, went missing on Wednesday the 13th/July/2011 after holding several meetings with Lira District Internal Security Officer (DISO) Steven Eryaku and a police officer at Lira police station.
A District Security Officer is a military intelligence officer attached to Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence.
Christine Awor a wife to Okello said her husband has not returned home since Wednesday.
Article 24 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda states that; no person shall be subjected to any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Sara Acio, a Rhino FM news anchor who is the last person to be with Okello on Wednesday before his alleged disappearance told Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) that it was at around 11am that day when they went to Lira Central police station to meet a police officer called Richard.
She said as Richard was on phone outside his office Eryaku entered and shook hands with them then he asked Okello, whether he was Rouks. Eryaku then told him that he had been looking for someone called Rouks.
“Eryaku took us to his office and made Okello sign in the visitors’ book and afterwards, he made arrangements to meet with him later in the evening” Sarah said. She said they left the DISO’s office and she was dropped at Northern Star bar by Okello as he was proceeding home.
Acio added that when Okello returned while they were still in town, he received a telephone call believed to be from the DISO’s office for a brief meeting at Grand Pacific located along Te-Obia road In Lira town.
HRNJ-Uganda has learnt that no sooner had Okello gone for a meeting at Grand Pacific than his phone went off mysteriously and he has not appeared again.
A source told HRNJ-Uganda that when Okello relatives approached a police officer whom Okello met first, DISO Eryaku summoned him while still in a meeting with the relatives. Okello’s motorcycle was seen parked.
According to Okello’s wife (Awor) the motorcycle was found at Lira police station and they tried to inquire who parked it there and was told by a traffic policemen that it had been brought by Eryaku.
Okello is the second journalist to go missing in a period of four years in Northern Uganda after Otim Patrick who was kidnapped and kept incommunicado. He was later produced in court under habeas corpus and charged with treason and concealment to treason.
“We condemn in the strongest term possible the manner in which Okello went missing. It’s the obligation of the government to protect all the citizens from any human rights violations. The government should use lawful means to deal with suspects rather than keeping someone in illegal detention. We are going to fight that behavior until we get Okello out from incommunicado” said HRNJ-Uganda Programmes Coordinator Geoffrey Wokulira Ssebaggala.
A case has been reported to Lira police station by Awor.
HRNJ-Uganda calls for intervention of UN Office of High Commission for Human Rights and foreign missions based in Uganda in order to bring Ugandan government to order.
We also demand that police should arrest Lira DISO Steven Eryaku as investigations into the matter continue.
For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Kivebulaya Road – Mengo Kampala Opp. St. Marcelino Pre. School
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala
Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627

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