Not Yet Free: A Statement from Phil After Arrest

There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court
    and detest the one who tells the truth.

You levy a straw tax on the poor
    and impose a tax on their grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
    you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
    you will not drink their wine.
 For I know how many are your offenses
    and how great your sins.

There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes
    and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times,
    for the times are evil.
My friends, the times are evil indeed, but among you I have found an exception to this rule.  We had no idea we had enough clout for so many allies (local and international) to come to our aid like this, which really helped ensure our well-being.

I say “our” – not “my” – because I have spent six days in cells with three concerned citizens of Uganda who are now among my closest friends: Okullu Tonny Fred (student), Orach Vincent (neighbor), and Ocen Ambrose (District Council V, Dokolo).  My beautiful and fearless wife Suzan was also held in a cell for about 24 hours with us.

So although there has been much concern as to why an American citizen has been detained for more than the legally-allotted 48 hours, we should be more actively questioning why anybody – man, woman, or youth (yes, youth) – is being held in inhumane conditions, especially before being convicted of any crime.  Let us shift our focus to the situation at large, rather than focusing on my personal arrest.

We Are Not Yet Free

While there has been much cause for celebration over our release on police bond yesterday morning, to begin using terms like “free” would distort our situation for several reasons:
1) We are expected to return to Central Police Station Lira (one of the two places where we were held and interrogated) on 18 December at 10:00 AM local time.  At this time, we will be receiving more information about our case regarding whether we will be taken to court.

2) Plain-clothes government authorities are still following us, especially those attendees of our informal dialogue on peace-building, human rights, public service delivery, and advocacy who were not present in the meeting at the time of the arrest.  Those who have been spending the past week in cells are actually physically safer than those who have not.

3) Members of our community have been threatened with arrest simply for trying to visit us.

How You Can Help

Therefore, we ask all of you to continue monitoring our situation and help us achieve justice in the following ways:

– Support the organization Solidarity Uganda financially at http://solidarityuganda.org/monthly-giving-initiative/ .  Many resources have been used up during this time, including large sums for transportation, communication, and mobilizing various forms of support.  We have had some tremendous support via our friends through the GoFundMe initiative ( http://www.gofundme.com/Phil-amp-Suzan ).  This short-term support will help defray many of the incurred expenses, but the long-term support of monthly donors is now becoming even more crucial.  This is not something which happened yesterday and will be over tomorrow.

– Stay tuned on any possible progress of our case through the Solidarity Uganda Facebook page to see how you can help.  I am hereby appointing a team of Megan Clapp, Brett Foote, Nathan Richard Sooy, and Oyaka Makmot to streamline communication with the social media public so that those of us trying to reorganize our lives after our arrest are not bombarded with messages asking for basic information which can be received through these individuals.

– Share this statement broadly.  If you are concerned about who to write to at this point, ask Ambassador DeLisi (US Embassy Kampala) to publicly ask President Museveni to uphold Article 29 of Uganda’s constitution, which protects the rights to Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Speech and Conscience, Freedom to Protest Unarmed and Peacefully, and Freedom to Form/Join Associations and Organizations.  Let’s use my “American citizenship privilege” to advocate for justice here, since we know that much government funding and support in Uganda comes from the US.

In Conclusion

There are many people to thank, but we must not yet formalize this gratitude.  Although our bodies are not in cells today, the trials we face are far from over.  The public support must continue – even grow – if we are to achieve justice here in Uganda.

While there is still much more to say about all of these matters (which will indeed be said), it is crucial for many reasons that we return to our families and reorganize our lives, trying to rest and heal from the physical and psychological troubles we have faced this week.  Don’t worry; our stories will be told.  Until then, stay engaged.  Penetrate the conscience of evildoers.  Part from oppression.  Protest injustice.  Proclaim the truth.

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