SPENT NIGHT IN CELL

Ugandan governor arrest threatens to spark diplomatic row

Didn't have COMESA insurance card, which he called 'a small matter'

In Summary

• The Manafwa governor from Uganda was arrested by Kenyan security officers,

• This led to protests on the Ugandan side and governor said he was mishandled by the Kenyan police

 

John Musila, governor of Manawfa district, Eastern Uganda.
NO INSURANCE: John Musila, governor of Manawfa district, Eastern Uganda.
Image: JOHN NALIANYA

The arrest of a Ugandan governor by Kenyan security officers at the Lwakhakha border last week is threatening to spark a diplomatic row between the two countries.

Police officers manning a roadblock at Lwandanyi trading centre in Bungoma county on October 4 arrested Manafwa Governor John Musila, who was travelling to Webuye town for personal reasons.

He was arrested for lacking a yellow Comesa (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) insurance cover card.

 

He was locked up and spent the night in a police cell. Musila was released the following day after paying Sh7,000 cash bail.

The release followed demonstrations by Ugandan residents demanding he be freed.

"We cleared with the Immigration department and as a regular visitor to the country. I was shocked when police did not listen to my explanation after I identified myself. They mishandled me by putting me behind bars over a small issue that has never been a bone of contention in the past," Musila told the Star on Thursday. He spoke in Lwakhakha.

This is a very serious matter that cannot be taken lightly. The OCS was very disrespectful and to make matters worse, he arrested me even after Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati and other leaders talked to him.
Manafwa Governor John Musila of Uganda

Manafwa district is at the border of Kenya and Uganda.

He said Bagishu and Bukusu communities live along the borders of the two countries and most of them are blood relatives and speak the same language.

"Our people live in Bungoma, Trans Nzoia, Kakamega and Busia. We hold regular meetings together to maintain unity. Why are ignorant police officers creating tension and rifts between us?" Musila asked.

The governor said he reported the matter to the Kenyan Embassy in Kampala for action to be taken against the officers.

 

"This is a very serious matter that cannot be taken lightly. The OCS was very disrespectful and to make matters worse, he arrested me even after Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati and other leaders talked to him," Musila said.

The Manafwa governor claimed that Kenyan police, unlike their counterparts in Uganda, had continuously worked against the unity of the East African Community by harassing Ugandan citizens for no reason.

"When Kenyans travel to Uganda, our officers accord them respect as visitors and tourists. Why should junior police officers ignorant of protocol issues mishandle elected leaders from other countries?" Musila asked.

He said the relationship between Kenyans and Ugandan citizens was cordial but junior police officers have continued to erode the ties.

Musila said he has received reports that at least 30 Ugandan motorcyclists have been unlawfully arrested by police.

"Our cyclists have been arrested and their motorbikes impounded for no apparent reason," he said.

Bungoma West deputy county commissioner Daniel Kurui has asked the subcounty security committee secretary to convene an urgent Border Management Committee at Lwakhakha border to restore good relations between the two neighbours.

Speaking to the Star, Kurui said the issue was amicably resolved. He said the problem cropped up after the governor failed to produce an insurance cover for the Comesa states.