Prisons Boss Suspends Regional OC Over Journalists’ Attack

Johnson Byabasaijja, the Commissioner General of Uganda Prisons has suspended Tom Okello, the Officer in Charge of Kalisizo Government Prison and Julius Asiimwe, the Southern Region Prison Commander in connection to the escape of inmates and assault of journalists.

Director General of Prison Dr. Johnson Byabashaija
Commisioner General of Uganda Prisons Dr. Johnson Byabashaija

On 18th March ten inmates successfully escaped from Kalisizo prisons. They are John Mirembe, Wycliffe Mamaggwa, Jacob Kalyango, Abdul Lusiba, Fred Yubu, Bob Vincent Ssemakula, Bosco Ssepuya, Damiano Ssemanda, Moses Mukasa and Vincent Ssenyondo. So far only Vincent Ssenyondo has been re-arrested.

Minutes after the successful jail break, Prison warders allegedly assaulted Pascal Lutabi, a Daily Monitor journalist and John Bosco Mulyowa of Vision group who were following up the escape of the inmates.

A medical report issued by Dr. Grace Kyasimire of Kisa Medical Centre shows that Lutabi sustained bodily injuries. The two journalists also lost their cameras and recorders which were allegedly confiscated and destroyed by the prison warders.

Now, Johnson Byabasaijja, the Commissioner General of Uganda Prisons has suspended Tom Okello, the Officer in Charge of Kalisizo Government Prison for alleged negligence of duty and failure to refrain his officers from assaulting journalists.

Frank Baine, the Spokesperson Uganda Prisons says the suspension is indefinite. Also suspended over the same incident over the same incident is Julius Asiimwe, the Southern Region Prisons Commander. Baine says they took the decision to protect the reputation of Uganda Prisons because of the escape of the inmates and violent attack on journalists.

According to Baine, the fate of the three journalists accused of attacking the journalists will be decided once the Human Rights Network for Journalists Uganda- HRNJ completes its investigations. Human Rights Network for Journalists Uganda has welcomed the suspension of the two officials but insists that the key offenders must be punished.

Geoffrey Ssebagala, the Coordinator HRNJ Uganda said in a statement on Monday morning that while they welcome the suspension of Okello and removal of Asiimwe, this action falls short of what is required of the prisons authorities in as far as punishing all the culprits is concerned. Ssebagala says they want Corporal Robert Ssemata, Corporal Frank Kyomwiru and Alex Mukisa who were on 21st March 2013 charged with ‘Discreditable Conduct ‘prosecuted.

He says although their files were sent to the prisons headquarters in Kampala, they have remained on the job with no justifiable reason. Okello says he is disappointed with the suspension, adding that, he was in Masaka to pick up food supplies when the inmates broke out of jail.

Okello says that when he returned, he found the inmates had long gone and only found prison warders fighting with journalists. He claims that he did everything possible to stop the fighting but he was overpowered until police intervened.

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