Lorry drivers in Masindi district, under their umbrella organization Bunyoro Lorry Drivers Association have accused security operatives in the district of extortion and harassment.
The drivers say the harassment is perpetrated in the name of implementing the presidential directive regulating the movement of vehicles. President Yoweri Museveni banned the movement of passenger vehicles as part of measures to fight the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cargo vehicles were allowed to continue operating, along with a few other services considered essential. However, cargo lorry drivers in Masindi district say they are surprised to see security operatives harassing them and yet they were allowed to move.
Juma Ssekiranda, a lorry driver said, security operatives in Masindi have continued to harass and arrest them as they go about their daily business, leading to losses.
“They also stop us from moving with our experienced loaders, which has made work more difficult and hence we cannot reach our destinations on time.”
Another driver who declined to be named said security operatives had misinterpreted the curfew directives restricting movement past 7:00 pm.
“Security does not allow us to move beyond 7:00pm and yet the president’s curfew order does not apply to cargo,” he said.
Meanwhile, drivers have accused some security personnel of extortion under the guise of enforcing presidential directives.
One of them, Kenneth Kyeyune, noted that some drivers found driving after 7:00 pm were forced to pay money before being released.
“One of my colleagues was forced to pay 110,000 shillings before he was allowed to continue with his journey.”
When contacted, the Acting RDC, Masindi, Longino Baheebwa, said many lorry drivers carry passengers masquerading as loaders, in violation of official directives that only allow three passengers per cargo vehicle: the driver, turn boy and a loader.
He also advised the drivers to identify and report all security operatives engaged in extortion for easy follow up.