The Spokesman for Uganda Prisons Service (UPS) Mr Frank Baine has said it is true, the recently released National Unity Platform (NUP) supporters underwent strip search including ‘anal search’ to ensure they do not smuggle unauthorized materials in prison.
Mr Baine was responding to some NUP supporters who accused prison authorities for what they called “inhumane and degrading treatment” suffered during detention in Kitalya government prison. In an interview with a local tabloid, Bobi Wine’s bodyguard Edward Ssebuufu aka Eddie Mutwe said he and other NUP supporters were subjected to “untold humiliation” in detention including anal search. Ssebuufu is among 35 supporters of Bobi Wine out on bail after spending months in Kitalya prison.
Ssebuufu decried massive congestion in prison as well as other human rights violations including physical and emotional torture. He said brute the acts inflicted by prison officials while in prison, were meant to “demoralize them” with intent “to force them abandon the struggle.”
In an interview with our reporter, Frank Baine laughed off the accusations and defended some of the “horrifying acts” allegedly committed against NUP supporters is consistent with the law and part of mandatory procedure inmates undergo upon admission into prison.
Baine said the body search as was conducted on NUP supporters is intended to ensure that inmates do not smuggle prohibited material into prison including drugs. He however said that some of the narratives by politicians about Uganda’s prisons are exaggerations with intent to gain cheap popularity.
“The Prison’s Act is clear. It directs that every prisoner must be searched when taken into custody. However, if you choose to hear what politicians say because they want votes, you may think it is an inhumane act” Baine said. He said he is amazed some NUP supporters wanted to keep dreadlocks and long beards which is unacceptable.
Also known as a cavity search, the procedure is conducted on inmates and involves either visual or a manual internal inspection of body cavities for prohibited materials (contraband), such as illegal drugs, money, jewelry, or weapons. Usually, body cavities under probe for concealment include nostrils, ears, mouth, navel, penis (urethra and foreskin) or vagina, and rectum.
Clause 62(1) of the Prisons Act, 2006 states; “Every prisoner shall on admission to a prison and subsequently at such times as the officer in charge may determine, be searched and all prohibited materials removed from his or her possession; and the search shall be conducted by a prison officer of the same sex as the person being searched and shall not be conducted in presence of a person of the opposite sex”
On claims by Ssebuufu and other politicians that Uganda’s prisons are congested to the extent that inmates sleep on top of others, Mr Baine said this too is an exaggeration. “While we may be short of international standards, our inmates have enough space and the claims are false” He said.
With 260 prisons in Uganda, available data shows that Uganda’s prisons are the second most congested detention centers in the whole of Africa. However, Baine says whereas there are 63,000 inmates in Uganda’s prisons against 20,000 minimum capacity, the situation is not as bad as portrayed. He gave the example of the newly commissioned Kitalya prison which has a total capacity of 3000 inmates but currently housing less than a half.
Luzira prison, which was built to handle a capacity of 600 currently holds 3000 inmates. More so, Uganda prisons are short of international standards on Warder to prisoner ratio at 1:6 against the recommended 1:3.
On other necessities like water and electricity, Baine said all prisons have reliable sources of water but a meagre annual budget allocation of less than 45% advanced to the prisons service, affects delivery on mandate of the facilities.
He however warned politicians who expect preferential treatment in Uganda’s prisons saying they should be ready for to conform. He said discipline and hygiene are fundamental to the prison service and therefore potential prisoners should not expect home comfort in prison.