This statement was originally published on hrnjuganda.org on April 3, 2017.
On Saturday morning, the 01st April, 2017, it was discovered that unidentified persons had broken into the offices of The Observer newspaper and stolen property including computers and other electronic gadgets worth Uganda Shillings 100 million (USD28,011) in a move that has been described as ‘very sophiscated’.
The attackers at The Observer Newspaper offices located on Tagore 1 Crescent, Kamwokya, a suburb of the Capital Kampala, also dismantled the CCTV surveillance system and made off with the company’s servers, making it impossible for the company to review what transpired during the night intrusion.
The office raid was first discovered by the outgoing Editor, Richard Kavuma who had come in early (at about 6.45am) only to find the office’s main gate widely open.
It remains unclear as to what happened to the guard on duty at the time, Isaac Chebet of KPI security firm, whose gun and uniform were found abandoned at the office premises. According to KPI security officials, Chebet’s known mobile phone number has remained off since the break-in. Sources at The Observer said that Chebet had just started manning the security of the offices.
The Managing Director of The Observer, James Tumusiime told a team of members from Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda), Human Rights Network (HURINET) and the National Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, who visited him at the Observer offices for solidarity, that the break-in was very sophiscated and that there is evidently an intention to cause more harm than just stealing.
“This particular attack appeared more sophiscated beyond the ability of an ordinary guard, like uprooting the entire CCTV system; why would a simple thief care about the server? We fear that there could be a conspiracy to cause harm beyond just stealing.” Tumusiime told the activists
“They gained access through the main gate, then cut the burglar proofing in the back window before they entered the different rooms at the top floor. They knew the geography of the place very well. This time, they carried away a lot of things they had overlooked last time, which has left us more scared and wondering why.” Tumusiime told HRNJ-Uganda.
Tumusiime said that since the October 2016 break-in, the police has never update them on the progress of the investigations. However, the security guard on duty then who had disappeared was arrested and taken to court at KCCA from where the trail is going on.
Over 30 human rights organisations and media houses have been broken into, and in some cases, the security guards killed by the intruders, but the police has not been keen to release the investigation reports or make arrests. HRNJ-Uganda suffered break-ins in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
“The state of affairs for the media and civil society human rights organisations is very scary. The police should work to investigate these reported incidents and make public the investigation reports as well as trying the perpetrators.” Said the HRNJ-Uganda National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala