Uganda: WONETHA Drop-In Centre Raided
WONETHA Drop-in Centre raided , outreach workers and other 3 members arrested and detained at Gulu Police station.
On the 8th May we went to Gulu to asses this case and below this was the outcome and what we found on the ground.
The arrested outreach workers and other 3 members were taken to court and charged on “LIVING ON THE ERANINGS OF PROSTITUTION”.
The lawyers we went with from HURAF including their Director went and negotiated with the Magistrate to grant a bail to the arrested which was accepted but asked to Pay Ugx 500,000 for the arrested not on cash and Ugx 1 000,000 for the sureties also not on cash, though the 2 were still detained because one of the sureties was not qualifying her ID was expired, The lawyers did this as soon as they heard from Daisy and Patricia that our was sanctioned.
After the release of the 3 we were able to speak to Auma Marcy to take us through on what happened and how the arrest took place; Marcy It started when we had gone home for lunch and we had some one knocking on the door to open we saw one police man, L C 111
Bongomine Moses, 3 other Women who work at the headquarters of Naro division and the O C of Naro Division.
Asked us to go with them to our office, reaching office we were asked to open it and they started searching our office in every corner including the dust bin, they connected the computer and asked me the password, and open the emails we send to the office in Kampala, and also asked me if we have a flash disk which i said we didn't but we have a modern for our Internet- they took it, Rim of papers, printer, Cash book, stapling machine, Puncher, computer, CPU took all the reports and other Materials we use during outreach ( Safer sex brochures, draft of the proposed research report for MARP Network and some condoms we distribute out to the members), checked under the carpet and throwing everything all over the office and this took us 1 hour and half, they locked our office and took the keys with them. We were then forced to carry all our asset to the Division where we also stayed for 2 hours. While we were there ,we were hearing them saying; that they are accusing us of promoting prostitution in Gulu, the office is used as a brothel at night where we charge Ugx 40,000 for the services, accused sleeping with other women and recruiting girls into prostitution and all they were saying were false allegations, they did not ask us to give them any statement, even when they came to arrest us they did not have the warrant of arrest or search warrant and we were not allowed to ask any question, then we were taken to the Central police and detained.
When Daisy, Syrus and Patricia HURAF lawyer spoke to the O C Station Gulu and brain stormed on the relationship we have with the police he said he is aware of everything and actually said even when he looked into the allegations made and searched into the computers they took to the police central police they totally different and actually he said there was no need to the girls to he kept at the police and the took the fileto the DPCs Office and explained everything and he also approved it and accepted that they should be released on bail. After all.
Then the file was handed over to another officer to release girls, then the officer asked us to find them sureties for them to be released, when we went out to get them sureties and came back with the sureties, the officer was telling us another story; that the case has been sanctioned to court and hearing is at 2:00Pm.
My fears if we ignore this case to just go like that; This is going to continue happening to all other drop in centres we have established in other districts including WONETHA‟s Main office, this means that whatever we have worked for since 2008 to date will be waste of time.
Recommendation: We need task force with a legal expertise and Human right background of activism on sex work issues to strongly strategise on the way forward both for the long term and short term especially for the sake of our Justice and freedom.
Please advise us WONETHA is scared on its own but with your support ready and willing to go. Only rights can stop the wrongs.