Three BBC journalists investigating the theft and sale of government drugs are among five people who have been detained and investigated by Ugandan police.
According to Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesman Patrick Onyango, three journalists – Godfrey Badebye, Kassim Mohamad, and Rashid Kawesa – and their driver Shafiq Kisame were arrested in Makindye, a Kampala suburb, where they were allegedly buying classified drugs from an undercover security officer on Wednesday night, the Daily Monitor reported Thursday.
We are holding five suspects on charges of illegal possession of classified drugs contrary to Section 27(2) of the National Drugs Authority Cap 206. Their file will be taken to State Attorney for perusal any time,” Onyango said.
Following their arrest and interrogation the police raided the house of NBS investigative journalist Solomon Sserwanjja, where a batch of drugs the reporters had bought was found.
Sserwanjja was not home so his wife Vivian Nakaliika, a communication officer at the health ministry, was arrested.
Onyango asserted that Sserwanjja was on the run after failing to return home, despite promising to do so, where the police had been waiting for him to help them in finding the drugs.
After searching the NBS journalist’s house the police said they uncovered 14 boxes of lumefantrine tablets, vaccines for Hepatitis B and other drugs labelled with government seals.
However, their arrest has been questioned by government spokesman Ofwono Opondo who claimed that the journalists had been cooperating with the State House Health Monitoring Unit to investigate the theft and sale of Ugandan government drugs in neighbouring South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.
“I am yet to find out the logic why police arrested these journalists, who in my view were helping government to unearth the rot which is in the system,” said Opondo. “They should be released unconditionally.”
Corruption and shortages of basic supplies, medicines and vaccines are endemic in the country’s health system.