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TV presenter held on sectarianism charges

Abbey Ssewakiryanga, alias Basajja Mivule. PHOTO | COURTESY.

Police yesterday arrested a television presenter on offences of promoting sectarianism as six artistes spent the fourth day in custody over similar charges.

Mr Abbey Ssewakiryanga, alias Basajja Mivule, who works with Baba TV in Kampala, was arrested in connection with a video in which he accused the government led by President Museveni of nepotism.

Last Friday, four comedians in a group that goes by a stage name Bizonto were arrested and are detained at the Special Investigations Unit at Kireka, Wakiso District.
The spokesperson of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (CID), Mr Charles Twiine, said the offences being preferred against Basajja Mivule are similar to those of Bizonto members.

“The case files were forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions for perusal and they are yet to be returned. That is what is holding us now. We expect to take them to court if the cases are sanctioned. We are still waiting,” Mr Twiine said yesterday.

Artistes Simon Peter Ssabakaki, Julius Ssewanja, Merceli Mbabali, Gold Kimatono, Saul Kamya and Gerald Kiweewa were arrested on Thursday and Friday.

Bizonto posted a comic skit in a social media video in which they named a dozen government officials who hail from one region.

Mr Kiweewa was the first to be arrested for releasing a song titled ‘Nantaba,’ and police say its meaning is offensive to leaders.

Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo told journalists in Kampala on Monday that promoters of tribal sentiments are not aware of what it can do to the country’s stability.

“This primitive talk of tribalism is being promoted by the Opposition wanting to paint a bad picture about this government. We understand that we are in a political season but we shall not allow people to preach hate and discrimination on tribal lines. The long arm of the law shall squeeze those who think are big headed,” Mr Opondo said.

Meanwhile, friends and relatives have been getting challenges visiting the detained suspects. Those who went to Kireka were told to only deliver food but were not allowed to interact with them.

“We have tried to talk to security officers to allow us access to the detained people but we have been denied access since Friday,” Mr Hannington Bugingo, the president of comedians and performing artistes association, said.

Crackdown

Since 2015, security agencies have been tough on social media users that make comments considered to be offensive against the ruling government or its officials. Even Ugandans in the diaspora are also targeted with charges when they return.

abagala@ug.nationmedia.com


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