Ugandan press freedom group’s office raided for second time in 2 years
“It is hard for us to comprehend. This was a highly sophisticated intrusion. The organization is paralyzed, a lot of our important information was taken, we can’t tell what they intend to use it for. We suspect this to be a reprisal for the work we do in defending and promoting media freedoms and journalists’ rights in the country,” said the HRNJ-Uganda national coordinator, Robert Ssempala, this morning.
This is the second time in two years that HRNJ-Uganda offices have been broken into. There have been several attempts to break into the office, that have been foiled by the security guards. However, last night, the security guard who was on duty, disappeared in the morning after the break-in, leaving behind her gun.
The attackers used the national coordinator’s office window after removing the burglar proof to enter the premises. They broke all internal office doors, vandalized drawers and scattered documents on the floor, as they made away with others. They also made away with the organization’s money-safe which was vandalized and found at the Rubaga police post by HRNJ- U staff who had gone to report the incident.
“When I arrived this morning I found the guard outside the gate, she opened for me, I entered and proceeded to open the office. I was shocked to see broken pieces of metallic bars near my boss’s office window. I rushed back to check on the guard only to realize that she had disappeared, leaving behind the gun,” said Emmanuel Magambo who is in charge of information technology and security at HRNJ-Uganda.
Numerous rights-based non-governmental organizations have been broken into in Uganda and useful information and property lost. According to NGO-Forum, over 15 offices of human rights organizations have been broken into under similar circumstances in the recent past. They include; ACCU, FHRI, EHAHRDP, AGHA, HRNJ-Uganda, AFODE, HURINET-Uganda, ACME, among others.
“Their interest was to access our information, which they did, because how do you explain the fact that expensive and portable machines like printers, projectors and photocopiers were not taken! They targeted specific offices within the premises, making us more suspicious of the intentions of the attackers. We hope that the police will investigate this matter to its logical conclusion,” said Robert Ssempala, the national coordinator.