Despite the harrowing ordeal he experienced in prison, Political activist, Singer and Songwriter Ali Buken, also known as Nubian Li, has vowed to continue actively participating in politics.
This was during The Fatboy Show Tuesday morning as Nubian unveiled his future plans for political participation after experiences he went through during his arrest at the time of the 2020 presidential campaigns.
“I will continue to advocate for the rule of law, true democracy aside from doing and producing my music. I want to show people that participating in politics doesn’t require one to have an electoral position but to be aware of the political happenings in their surroundings and follow up on them because they will always affect you as long as you stay in a certain locality,” he said.
Nubian Li, who is also a close confidant of Kyagulanyi Ssentamu aka Bobi Wine and the husband to Mutoni Salha, the LC3 Chairperson of Kyanja Parish, says he jumped on the political wagon after being inspired by political debates he had with Bobi Wine, a former 2020 presidential aspirant from National Unity Platform.
On the request of James Onen aka Fatboy, Nubian Li narrated his ordeal in jail that happened on December 30, 2020 where he and 127 other individuals including Bobi Wine’s bodyguard Edward Sebufu, were arrested from Kalangala Islands where they had gone for a campaign rally. These were later slapped with the terrifying charges of illegal possession of ammunition, inciting violence and negligent acts likely to spread an infectious disease, Covid-19.
On the day of arrest, he said they were warned about the massive deployment in the region which they thought would be a familiar experience that they had probably encountered before. However, after getting onto boats to get to the Islands, they were notified by some people who had escaped arrest at the ferry point that the trail on shore had been captured.
Going back to the help their colleagues, he recounted, “When we reached, we found heavy deployment of the military, police, plain-clothed men and the Anti-Terrorism Unit. When Bobi Wine went to have a chat with the commanding officer, he was instead arrested. They surrounded him and the rest of us, and gave us orders to break all phones and other gadgets we were carrying.”
Fatboy, curious about the circumstances surrounding the arrests, asked Nubian what he thought led to this kind of arrest that seemed spontaneous and random since from the narration, it did not appear that they had violated any rules.
“I think the main intention of this arrest was to isolate Bobi Wine from the campaign team. Because looking back at other rallies, we had this fearless campaign team that no matter the barriers they put, we were always able to get through. I think they got frustrated and they just arrested us. We were about 127 in total,” he said.
He continued, “They clobbered and beat up most of the people. Journalists were forced to break their cameras and they pepper-sprayed all of us. Bobi Wine was airlifted to his home and we were put on police lorries and transported to Kalangala police cells. In the evening at around 8pm, we were divided into groups. My group had ten people including Eddie Mutwe.The military made two queues and forced other groups to pass in between them as they kicked and struck them with batoons. My group was loaded onto Nalufenya arrest vans and driven away.
On the day of their first trial in the Masaka Chief Magistrates Court, they were read to their first charge that was negligent acts likely to spread Covid-19. Being a minor case, they were granted bail. However, like numerous other political cases where court directives aren’t upheld, they were immediately re-arrested by the army.
“As we waited for our paperwork from the court cells, we heard people struggling and running outside which we soon realized were our sureties and lawyers that the army was dispersing away from the court premises.”
That night, Nubian and his group were handcuffed by the army and prison personnel. Confused because they thought they were going to be released, they were instead put on lorries and taken to Masaka Saza prison. “About two wards had been emptied and they even brought new uniforms. The inmates we found there told us that since morning, preparations for having us had been ongoing. The military took charge of the prison and was thoroughly deployed in and around.”
On January 7, 2021, he narrated that the army split them into two groups. His group was supposed to be driven to court. However, on the way, they realized that they were being driven to another location. Scared and confused, they shouted for help in hopes that people would recognize them and inform their lawyers.
On reaching Kampala, the group of 49 was taken to Makindye Military Barracks where they were lined up before the Military Court Martial and slapped with charges of illegal possession of ammunition.
“They told us that on January 3, 2021, they had arrested us from Wandegeya for possession of bullets, yet all 49 of us were in detention in Masaka on that date. Not even our lawyers were allowed in the court. It was crazy, we got so worried, there was bitterness and anger, some people lost it and started abusing General Ogutu while our female counterparts broke into tears. It was a very sad moment for all of us knowing that they had pressed such a charge on us.”
The political activist recounted how that night, they were remanded to Kitalya prison where they stayed till eventually bail was granted. He said that from the day of arrest, they never saw their families except in the Masaka court proceedings.
In Kitalya, he recounted that a ward fit for 100 people hosts about 350 people a night and inmates sleep on 3-inch mattresses. “They pile you up like logs in that if someone went out to the toilet, they would have nowhere to fix themselves when they got back so some people would rather urinate where they slept rather than lose their spots. The conditions were so horrible; there were lice, scabies and some people ended up getting Tuberculosis because of the sleeping arrangement,” he said.
From his experience of his time spent in jail, Li said that Uganda prisons do not perform their duties of rehabilitating and reforming the inmates because some inmates plan to continue with crime and also recruit others into crime.
After spending 6 months in Kitalya prison, Nubian Li and 16 other NUP supporters were the last to be granted bail among their 49 counterparts and released on June 14, 2021 since their arrest on 30, December, 2020 at Kibale Village, Buyoga Sub-county in Kalangala District.
The Fatboy show is hosted by James Onen aka Fatboy, Olive, Sarah and Lesham every weekday from 6am to 10am on RX Radio.