The #IStandWithHellen conversation on Twitter is getting into “We want to see footage so we settle this.” I think that this is unnecessary at this point.
The footage referred to is that (hopefully) captured by the CCTV cameras in the Stanbic Uganda Mukono branch on Tuesday when Ronald Kibuule, State Minister of Water, was reported to have physically assaulted a female guard, Hellen Obuku. The story, reported in Daily Monitor and written by a journalist I trust Andrew Bagala, says that Obuku had insisted that the Minister go through a routine security check before entering the branch. Kibuule did not want to be searched because he was a minister.
The story goes on to say: “Police responded to a complaint raised by Honourable Kibuule that he was being manhandled and abused by a guard at the bank despite identifying himself to her. The officers intervened and took the guard to police, but she collapsed on the way. Later her statement was recorded and she was left to go,” Mr Kayima said yesterday.” Kayima is the Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson.
Power at work
The conversation #IStandWithHellen was sparked off especially because not only was this a case of blatant impunity in which Obuku was the smaller fish in pond but also because the CEO of Stanbic Bank Uganda, Patrick Mweheire, signed off on an apology to the Minister for “inconvenience and embarrassment this incident might have caused you.”
The inconvenience of a security check? The embarrassment of his Minister-ness not being enough to warrant the safety of everyone on the premises of the bank?
The letter continues: “We have communicated with the security company to remedy the problem going forward.”
What exactly is the problem to be remedied? Is it Hellen Obuku that was doing her job? Is she the problem to be remedied? Or the protocol that civil servants be submitted to security checks? Kibuule says that he did not want to be checked by a woman- is that the problem to be remedied then?
Also, can I just state that for the longest time every time I went to Prunes restaurant, there was never a woman guard? I always made a point to tell the present guard that I would rather be checked by a woman but have often handed my bag to him to check. I have also never assaulted him. Neither have I ever got a letter from the owner, expressing regret over any “inconvenience and embarrassment.”
We know from history that Kibuule cannot be trusted
I must also remind you all of the time while State Minister for Youth, Ronald Kibuule said that it was okay for women to be raped if they were dressed a certain way. He said he had told police to ask all women reporting a rape case what they’d been wearing.
Do you remember what Kibuule did when that story was reported in Daily Monitor?
He got onto Twitter and he denied to us all. Until the newspaper released a recording (transcribed here) and he somehow lost his password, stopped tweeting and continued being present in our cabinet.
And that there is the problem. He stayed being a Minister, despite petitions. The Speaker of Parliament even ruled that she could not do anything about it (we didn’t agree), even if Kibuule had invoked his office and also involved police.
What is different this time? Ronald Kibuule, according to Hellen Obuku, invoked his office. He did not want to be searched because he is a Minister. The Stanbic CEO- who runs a bank that according to recent results, rose net profit by 56.9% to Shs107.29 billion– had time to apologise to him, likely because he is a Minister.
Kibuule also called the police. “But Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesman Emilian Kayima said Mr Kibuule called the police to “intervene in the case” at the bank. The Minister reportedly called the Mukono District police commander, Mr Alfred Ahimbisibwe, to arrest Obuku for criminal libel, a media-related offence. [Obuku is said to have “recollected herself and went back to her post and kept quiet.”]
While of the two- and I would prefer for this to be about more than the incident itself- I have to say Kibuule is the unreliable source. We’ve been in a similar produce-the-evidence place before with him, and he has returned to us with his wives to prove that he couldn’t have said what we heard him say. This time instead of Twitter, he has gone to Facebook. And he has thankfully left his family out of it, while he claimed that he is a woman activist. So yes, the incident might be tied into the CCTV footage, but what the incident has revealed to all of us is beyond that footage.