Lawmaker pushes for release of Kenyans jailed in Uganda
Kenya’s National Assembly has waded into the matter of its nationals jailed in Kampala for killing Ugandan soldiers during a cattle rustling incident.
This week, Protus Akuja, Member of Parliament for Loima in Turkana County, petitioned Parliament seeking the intervention of the Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs for the repatriation of the 41 Kenyans jailed in Uganda.
Akuja says in his petition that the Kenyans were arrested, detained and hurriedly convicted for between eight and 20 years after a cordon-and-search operation by Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF and now their whereabouts are unknown.
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“The Turkana pastoralists were taken through a one-day court martial without any legal representation or right to appeal while the right to a fair trial is that every person should be presumed innocent until proven guilty,” the MP says in the petition.
“There is no clear information on which prison facilities the convicts are confined in or trace to prove they are still alive.”
The Kenyan lawmaker complained that most of those convicted were minors rounded up from their kraals on allegations of possession of illegal firearms and ammunition.
They were tried under Ugandan law. Section 119 of the UPDF Act says any person found with weapons, ammunition or equipment that is a monopoly of the armed forces is subject to military law and trial by a court martial — something that doesn’t apply in Kenya.
Uganda and Kenya, under the East African Community Treaty, have a mutual legal assistance framework that includes rendition of suspects back to where they have committed the crime. There is a gap, however, on whether that covers prisoner exchange. Ugandan authorities routinely arrest pastoralists and fishermen for trespass and often fine and release them.
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Kenya’s Foreign and Diaspora Ministry said it was engaging its counterparts in Kampala but Uganda reportedly demanded that the jailed group name the killers before they can be freed.
Back in April, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF entered Kenya following the killing of three Ugandan geologists and two UPDF soldiers who were guarding the geologists in Lotisan Sub-County in Moroto District.
The troops were hunting for herdsmen believed to have committed the acts in Uganda before fleeing into Kenya.
The UPDF seized 27 AK 47 rifles, one self-loading rifle, 751 rounds of ammunition, 32 magazines, three sets of UPDF uniform and 19 bows and arrows.
Over the years, Karamoja and Turkana have borne the brunt of illegal guns ferried through the porous borders of Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and Somalia. It is these guns that are used during cattle raids, which have increased in recent times in the two countries.
Mr Akuja blames the Kenyan government for ignoring the plight of its citizens who are being mistreated in a foreign country.
“All these happenings were brought to the attention of the government, but no action has been taken to secure the release of the unlawfully convicted Kenyans,” Mr Akuja says.
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The lawmaker wants parliament to compel the Ministry of Affairs through the High Commission in Uganda to make a request for the extradition and surrender of the accused persons to Kenyan authorities for trial.
The petition will be considered by the National Assembly Public Petitions Committee and a report presented to the House within 60 days. But it may have little legal weight, as this is a matter involving a foreign state.