Inside Uganda’s protests
By Hassan Isilow
IT’S not exactly the reply one expects to get from a senior interior minister, who has served in Government for over 2 decades.
The Ugandan interior Minister, Kirunda Kivejinja, has shocked the world by justifying; the murder of five Ugandan’s killed by police in protests last week.
He said the government would not take responsibility for those killed and advised Ugandans to blame the deaths on “the British and Americans who manufacture bullets”.
Last week, Thursday (April 28), Police used hostility in arresting the country’s main opposition leader, Dr. Kiiza Besigye, whom they accused of inciting people to protest against skyrocketing prices of food and fuel.
Gilbert Arinitwe, a plain-clothed security operative was captured on camera smashing the window screen of Dr Besigye’s car and dousing the inside with pepper spray, before pulling the politician out of the car with kicks and slaps.
The opposition leader and his aides were later thrown into a waiting police van and whisked away.
Ugandans were terribly angered by this cruel behaviour and on Friday April 29, the country woke up to nation wide protests, with demonstrators demanding to know why Dr. Besigye was brutally arrested.
In Mbale Town, some 300 kilometres east of the capital Kampala, protesters over powered the police and torched a Government vehicle. The Military police popularly known as the red top were then deployed to control the situation.
As things calmed down in Mbale, the capital city Kampala was in chaos as protestors burnt tyres and logs on city roads. There were also running battles between the police and protesters. Deaths and injures were recorded on the side of protesters, while 700 people were also arrested by the police for reportedly participating the protests.
The interior minister Kirunda Kivejinja went ahead to justify police brutality by saying ‘‘ the police force was within its constitutional mandate to restore law and order by disengaging crowds and it is allowed by the law to shot at people as the way of “preventing and detecting crime”.
Many Ugandans believe the minister’s statement is regrettable and wish that he apologises for uttering such a statement.
Uganda’s Independent Daily Monitor newspaper, reported on Sunday that a rift had arisen between the interior minister and his deputy Matia Kassaija, who believes it was wrong for police to use excessive force in arresting Dr. Kizza Besigye the country’s main opposition leader.
Meanwhile, retired Supreme Court Judge, Justice Kanyehamba, apportioned blamed on the Inspector General of Police, Major General Kale Kayihura whom he accused of tolerating brutality with in the police force.
The police chief is a former military commander who was appointed by the President to run the police a civil unit, which is required by law to protect Ugandans and their property but not brutalize them.
Many Ugandans are wondering what happened to President Yoweri Museveni who came to power through a guerrilla in war in 1986, strong-minded to fight injustices that made him wage war against his predecessors.
Dr. Besigye who has challenged President Museveni in three presidential elections is his main political rival. The two politicians were once friends who fought together in the National Resistance Army (NRA) guerrilla war against the dictatorial regimes of the late Dr. Milton obote and General Tito Okello.
Dr. Besigye was also President Museveni’s personal physician during the 1981-1986 guerrilla war.
However, the two men fell out in 1999, when Dr. Besigye wrote a critical article accusing the National Resistance Movement Party which is lead by President Museveni of deviating from its original agenda of liberating the country.
Currently Dr. Besigye is admitted in Nairobi hospital, where he is recuperating following injuries he sustained during Thursdays brutal police arrest. He told Journalists in Nairobi on Sunday that protests would continue until government addresses the rising cost of food and fuel.
Dr. Besigye has been leading a twice weekly protest dubbed walk to work which is a peaceful protest championing the rising cost of living.