Uganda: Chaos in Kampala Leaves Three People Dead as Museveni Unleashes Terror on Political Opponents Vying for President

Police have confirmed the death of at least three people and the injury of 34 others in Kampala, after demonstrations broke out in different parts of Uganda.

Amidst teargas and live bullets from Police and the army, supporters of Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known by his stage name Bobi Wine engaged in running battles with Ugandan security forces in at least four different towns.

Bobi Wine, 38, a musician who has since joined politics is seen as the leading opposition Presidential Candidate in the race to end Yoweri Museveni’s thirty-five-year rule.

For most of Wednesday November 18, Kampala and other towns in central and eastern Uganda resembled war zones, as angry youths burned tyres on major roads and in some cases beat up or undressed people wearing yellow, which is the colour of Mr. Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.

Police and the army on the other hand fired teargas and live bullets. The live bullets and teargas caused most of the injuries, as the Red Cross reported rescuing at least 20 people suffering from either bullet wounds or suffocation.

 

Bobi Wine poured into a police van after being brutally arrested 

The demonstrations and running battles with security followed the live broadcast on Facebook of Police, as it violently arrested Bobi Wine, while he was on his way to a campaign rally in the Eastern Uganda district of Luuka. After his arrest, Bobi Wine was taken to Nalufenya police station, which in Uganda is known as a notorious torture chamber for those accused of crimes related to the opposition of President Museveni’s rule.  

On the day Bobi Wine was arrested, Patrick Amuriat of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) was also arrested in Gulu district. Gulu, which until 2006 was the epicentre of the 20-year Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) war in northern Uganda was put under a complete lockdown, to prevent scenes of violent demonstration that were already going on in other parts of the country. 

Henry Tumukunde, another Presidential Candidate was blocked from campaigning in western Uganda, while President Museveni could go on undisturbed in the northeastern parts of the country.

In a statement, Police accused Bobi Wine of knowingly spreading Covid-19 when he addressed a campaign rally.

“Kyagulanyi Robert Ssentamu and others still at large knowingly addressed a rally of more than 200 people without respecting standard operating procedures of the Electoral Commission, an act likely to spread infectious disease,” reads the police statement of offence in part.

 

Bobi Wine on the campaign trail making his case to the Ugandan Electorate

While Bobi Wine had not yet started campaigning, violation of Covid-19 guidelines is the new reason for arresting or stopping the activities of opposition presidential candidates participating in the 2021 general elections.

In the past Police have used the public order management act to stop the presidential campaigns of opposition politicians like former Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi and leading opposition leader Kizza Besigye who is also President Museveni’s former doctor.

Dr. Besigye who has challenged President Museveni over the last four general elections chose not to participate this time around, arguing that the whole exercise was futile, as the current Ugandan leader has firm control over the police, army, judiciary and the Electoral Commission.

According to Dr. Besigye, this means Uganda cannot have a free and fair election and that even if another candidate other than President Museveni was to win an election, he or she would never be declared the victor.

This is a sentiment that has since been echoed by Lewis Rubongoya, Secretary-General of Bobi Wine’s National Unity Platform (NUP) party. 

Mr. Rubongoya says the Electoral Commission refused to protect the candidates, which is why the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) is able to hold rallies with large crowds without any intervention from the security forces, while opposition candidates who have generally been blocked from even accessing the mass media are not allowed to physically campaign.

In reaction to Wednesday’s events, some analysts have proposed that the Electoral Commission calls off the electoral process until sanity can return.

Crispin Kaheru who has observed most elections that took place on the African continent over the last ten years says that it is clear Uganda has failed to carry out an election while preventing the spread of Covid-19.

“The incidents of violence at hand in different parts of the country point to one thing; that we have failed the test of an election amidst a Covid-19 pandemic. It is therefore prudent that the Electoral Commission suspends physical campaigns with immediate effect until such a point when the body regains full control of the electoral environment,” Kaheru says.

Similar sentiments were reechoed by Jude Byamukama, who in 2016 was among the lead lawyers to challenge the Presidential Election before the Supreme Court. Although the court did not cancel the election, it acknowledged that the process had irregularities. 

According to Mr. Byabakama, intending candidates have not had the proper environment within which to campaign.   

“What if the elections were postponed till such a time that public rallies can be conducted? Recall that pre-Covid-19, intending candidates were blocked from having consultative public rallies and asked to wait for campaign proper,” Byamukama says.