KAMPALA — Ugandan authorities have in a major twist of events denied having fugitive blogger Fred Lumbuye in their custody.
Lumbuye, a well-known blogger, social media activist and critic of President Yoweri Museveni, was arrested in Turkey on Tuesday, according to several news reports.
Even though details about Lumbuye’s arrest remained sketchy, the discussion swiftly moved to issues surrounding his alleged crimes —with Foreign Affairs State Minister Henry Okello Oryem confirming that the blogger had been deported to Uganda on Saturday.
“Lumbuye is in the safe hands of the government,” he said but declined to reveal where he is being held for security purposes and not to attract crowds.
Oryem also castigated journalists who were to the airport to witness Lumbuye’s arrival.
“I warned you all not to go to the airport. I told you that you won’t get access to the airside. So why did you go to the airport?” he asked.
He was responding to claims that officers from the elite Special Forces Command (SFC) had chased journalists from the entrance of the airport on Saturday morning.
He said anybody who commits a crime in any country whatsoever, should pay the price for breaking the law including in Uganda… no one is above the law,” said Uganda’s deputy foreign minister.
However, addressing the media on Monday, Police Spokesman Fred Enanga said they have never received the blogger and his is not in their custody.
Enanga also said they have 15 cases that they will bring against him once he is handed over to them.
“We don’t have Lumbuye but what we have 15 case files against him. Don’t ask us if he is here or not because we don’t know but as soon as he is handed over to us we are ready, ” Enanga said.
He didn’t name the alleged cases.
“When he is handed over to us, we shall come out with the full statement. Whether he is in the country or not, as police once he is handed over to us we shall process him with the 15 file cases we have on him,” Enanga added.
For an arrest to be legal, there needs to be reasonable grounds to suspect the individual is involved in a crime for which their arrest is necessary.
So far, information from Ugandans who posted on social media suggested the allegations against Lumbuye all stem from his criticism of President Yoweri Museveni’s government.
Lumbuye’s arrest will not be the first time an African leader has arrested an activist or journalist as a direct consequence of what they say and write on social media.
Legal experts have said repatriating Lumbuye to Uganda by whatever means would set a dangerous precedent for press freedom.