By Mulengera Reporters
In order to deny the government of Uganda possible political capital, defiance activist Sam Mugumya (more renowned for being Kizza Besigye’s aide) has declined assistance being extended by the UN agencies to expedite his release from the Ndolo prison in the DRC where he has been imprisoned since October 2014.
There has never been unanimity on how he got there. Whereas government says he was on a subversive mission coordinating rebel recruitment on Uganda-DRC border, his FDC party officially maintains he was just kidnapped and herded into the jungles of DRC by a government that was afraid of his activism that was inspiring many other young people to oppose government. Some in FDC had previously claimed Kampala opted to keep him away in the hope he would become emotionally broken and subsequently be manipulated to be used to implicate his boss Besigye into subversive activities in return for his freedom.
Mugumya was picked with four other young Bakiga men that he continues to be incarcerated with. While in prison, a defiant Mugumya has continued to send recorded messages to his FDC comrades mostly through Doreen Nyanjura and Ingrid Turinawe. In one of the recorded messages, he composed songs rallying Ugandans for the Togikwatako cause insisting Museveni was falling soon. In the same recording he begged the DRC authorities “to kill us so that we are forever free.”
Originally his comrades in the defiance movement tried staging demonstrations denouncing the DRC and Ugandan governments for conspiring to keep him in jail. But the police, then led by Gen Kale Kayihura ruthlessly broke up all those protests forcing activists to give up the issue.
As that happened, Col Kizza Besigye went underground on the issue including getting DRC lawyers for Mugumya. And knowledgeable sources say it’s through those DRC lawyers that every month Besigye parts with $6,000 (roughly Shs24m) towards Mugumya’s safety, welfare and maintenance while in the DRC. The money covers him and the other four who after all are equally FDC diehards. It goes into paying the retainer for the lawyers and meeting the five men’s material needs. And the Besigye policy, according to insiders, has been to encourage all concerned to remain silent about the matter arguing it’s the best way to ensure Mugumya remains safe wherever he is.
Sources say the ascendance of Félix Tshekedi as new DR Congo President emboldened Besigye in his belief that Mugumya will someday become a free man again. Unknown to many people, Besigye and the Tshekedi family have close links especially with Felix’s father (Étienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba) with whom they shared a lot as veteran opposition leaders in a politically very complicated region where the non-military opposition is never believed to stand any chance.
Felix, sources claim, has in honor of his father ensured that friendship remains. One source claims that when the DRC opposition groups ganged up and coalesced around Martin Madidi Fayul as the joint opposition candidate and younger Tshekedi felt sidelined, Besigye is one of the senior comrades the future Congolese President reached out to for consultation.
Besigye, who has strictly required his aides never to brag about his connections to the new DRC President, advised him to ignore the TDA-like coalition in the DRC and referred to his own 2016 example for inspiration. Indeed, as we now know, Felix Tshekedi soldiered on and in the end became the DRC President. Sources close to the retired Colonel claim that KB has continued to count on Tshekedi that his man Mugumya Sam will walk to freedom someday.
“And indeed, the truth is Sam Mugumya’s DRC lawyers have made great progress since Tshekedi took charge and there is certainty the five activists will walk to freedom sooner than many people think,” said a source close to KB. The same source adds that Besigye has maintained that nobody should go bragging about his money contributions towards Mugumya preferring that when he is finally freed, Sam Mugumya will personally tell the world about his solidarity on his own volition without being prompted by anybody.
Reliable diplomatic sources say that taking advantage of the new clarity that emerged when Tshekedi became President in Kinshasa, the GoU tried to take initiative and reached out to Mugumya who sought Besigye’s view before responding to the offer. He reportedly declined and told Premier Ruhakana Rugunda’s emissaries that he wasn’t comfortable getting assisted by the government of Uganda which he suspected would demand political concessions in return. Sources say the Rugunda emissaries hadn’t made any such demands but Mugumya (who passionately resents NRM) anticipated that would become the case at some point.
The Rugunda emissaries tried to engage the FDC leadership and when Party President Patrick Amuriat consulted KB, he told him “it’s good they are reaching out to the party but make sure before you communicate any commitments or take any steps, first know what Mugumya Sam will be comfortable with.” And Mugumya repeated the same to party emissaries prompting Najjanankumbi to tell Rugunda there wasn’t much they could do (plunging into talks without the blessing of Mugumya and the other four).
Considering him a high profile prisoner, the UN agencies too have been having some significant contact with Mugumya and his comrades frequently. Leveraging on the influence of the powerful western governments they represent, the UN agencies have gone as far as offering to help negotiate some way out of sorts for Mugumya, something the strong-hearted young man from Rukungiri has flatly rejected insisting he is counting on the path his mentor KB has chosen to pursue until he is freed.
And he maintains there is more hope that with the new Tshekedi government, a resolution will be arrived at more expeditiously. But all sources Mulengera News spoke to for this article have consistently maintained “the circumstances of Mugumya’s incarceration in the DRC are more complicated than can be appreciated by many people.” They have preferred that, being an orator himself, Mugumya lives to tell the story himself once he and the other four are finally freed. (For comments, email us at email@example.com).