Violent arrest of Presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine has left about 40 people dead and more than 100 badly injured and the country more polarized on ethnic and partisan lines.
The Uganda police pathologist and the head of police health services told journalists in the capital, Kampala, that they had counted 37 bodies by Thursday morning.
Police have said 350 people were arrested and detained throughout Kampala. The whole country is on tension as military and police reinforced their presence.
Following the arrest of Bobi Wine, riots broke out in several parts of the country, with youth burning tyres in the roads and several people were attacked, including police officers. Security forces were forced to swing into action to quell the riots.
The riots and ensuing security reactions caused several people to take to social media condemning the actions of both the rioters and the security forces.
All rioters dressed in red, a colour associated with Bobi Wine’s political party, the National Unity Platform, were being targeted by overzealous security operatives whereas people dressed in yellow, a colour associated with the ruling National Resistance Movement political party, were beaten and made to undress by the rioters.
Majority of social media fanatics expressed ethnic attacks against each other throughout the riots.
Bobi Wine was arrested during campaigns for presidency in eastern Uganda while challenging sitting Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled Uganda for more than three decades. Now 38, Bobi Wine, an up-from-the-slums reggae sensation and political newcomer, is taking on Museveni in an unprecedented presidential election due to take place on Jan. 14.
As a musician, Bobi Wine can and does boast a massive following. Bobi Wine’s youthful age and his music have earned him a large following in the relatively young country of 42 million, rattling the ruling National Resistance Movement party and drawing a security crackdown on his supporters.
Since Wine expressed his presidential ambition, police and the military have repeatedly dispersed his rallies, and beaten and detained his supporters. Bobi Wine has been targeted by police since announcing his presidential campaign.
He was most recently arrested on November 3, just moments after registering his candidacy and most of his supporters were severely assaulted. Wine is now seen as the strongest challenger to Museveni,
Following the violent arrest of Bobi Wine six other presidential candidates announced suspension of their campaigns.
Gen. Mugisha Muntu of the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT), independent presidential candidates Lt. Gen. Henry Tumukunde, Nobert Mao of the Democratic Party, John Katumba, Fred Mwesigye and Willy Mayambala suspended their campaigns and called for the immediate release of their fellow presidential candidates.
Patrick Amuriat representing the Forum for Democratic Change was also arrested at the same time as Bobi Wine but later released in Gulu, north of the country.
The Electoral Commission was criticized for its ‘loud silence’ over the arrests and alleged police highhandedness against opposition supporters.
In a statement, the Electoral Commission chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama Mugenyi, said it had engaged security agencies over the continued detention of Kyagulanyi.
To calm down country-wide tempers police attempted to release Bobi Wine on Thursday morning on police bond but the presidential candidate declined to sign bond papers in absence of his lawyers insisting that he either be taken to court or unconditionally released without any charges.
After he was produced before a magistrate’s court over charges of failure to adhere to covid 19 guidelines, the case was adjourned to December 18 and Bobi Wine was released on court bail but cautioned to adhere to Covid 19 guidelines.
The presidential candidate was charged with spreading coronavirus. The court ruled on Friday after Wine, 38, held a large rally this week.
“I am not here because I committed a crime. I am here because I offered myself to lead Ugandans into ending 35 years of a dictatorship,” told the Iganga Chief Magistrate’s court.
Bobi Wine’s lawyers claimed their client had been tortured.
Human Rights Watch says it is clear that the Ugandan authorities are using Covid-19 guidelines to repress opposition and that the governing party has held large events ahead of the election on January 14, 2021.
Security Minister Gen Elly Tumwine said they were investigating whether the rioters were armed with guns. However, it should be noted that on the second day of riots many security operatives were seen in plain clothes with AK 47 rifles shooting at charged crowds.
The Uganda Peoples Defence Forces said they were to increase their presence in the Kampala Metropolitan policing area.
“We shall take a reinforced posture across the districts of Kampala, Mukono, Wakiso, Entebbe, and its environs to enable us to do a mobile thrust in and outside of the city. We shall respond and react quickly and effectively to any incident of criminality across levels,” Said the deputy UPDF spokesperson, Lt Col Deo Akiiki.
“All roads feeding into the city shall jointly be manned while outside forces provide security to all highways to ensure that no individual or groups disrupt the normal flow of traffic and business,” Akiiki told journalists
President Museveni claims foreign groups have infiltrated the opposition and want to violent remove him from power.
Museveni while speaking during his campaigns in Kotido in Karamoja sub region said that foreigners and homosexual groups are funding riots to cause unrest in Uganda will be replied.
Museveni said government will not tolerate the hooliganism exhibited by the protesters, warning they will be crashed.
“They have entered an area of fighting we know very well. Whoever started it will regret it. Some of these groups are being used by outsiders who don’t like the stability and independence of Uganda but will discover what they are looking for,” Museveni warned.
“Those who have been attacking NRM people in Kampala will soon lose that appetite. You will see the uniform of NRM and won’t touch it. Even if they abandon it, you won’t touch it. They want to create violence so that elections are not held, however, lections will continue and those fighting will lose. They will answer for the crimes they have committed.” The President said the guidelines were put in place for the benefit of members of the public not to contract the virus but warned it is foolishness for some people to ignore them.
“We are here in this campaigning indirectly where we don’t hold rallies for the sake of avoiding infecting more people. We have lost quite a number of people already including two Members of Parliament and some scientists. It is therefore criminal for anybody to ignore this. We are not going to tolerate that and whoever does it(violates guidelines) will regret what they did,” Museveni warned.
According to the ACLED COVID-19 Disorder Tracker, 47% of the incidents of police violence in Uganda since March 2020 have been cases of state repression of civilians. Ugandan security forces have also cracked down on writers and journalists for criticizing the president.
Uganda will likely see increased violence and state repression as Museveni’s ruling party seeks to maintain power.
Bobi Wine’s arrest followed a press briefing called by the Police Director of operations, Assistant Inspector General of Police Edward Ochom, who announced that the Force would clump down on political aspirants who continued to flout the regulations of the EC.
Museveni has imposed COVID-19 restrictions that limit access to political information, especially in rural areas of Uganda. The restrictions prohibit mass rallies. According to the guidelines politicians are not to address more than 200 people at each rally.
Since the ban on campaign rallies, eligible voters can learn about the presidential candidates only through internet, radio, or television sources. This limitation favors urban over rural voters and supporters of Museveni over his opponents.
International community reacts
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy said the Ugandan government should respect domestic rights and stop brutality against her citizens.
Joseph Borrell, who doubles as the European Commission Vice president, said the loss of life in violent incidents in Uganda is saddening.
The United Nations Sec-General Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said they were following the developments in Uganda’s presidential campaigns. Dujarric called on the state institutions particularly security forces to act in a manner that respects human rights and the principles of rule of law.
“Political parties, actors and government leaders should work in a way that will ensure a peaceful election,” said Stephane Dujarric while addressing the press.
The United States Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in a statement said; “For almost two decades, President Museveni has shown he is incapable of conducting an election without jailing his opponents and brutalizing Ugandan citizens expressing their desire for a more inclusive democracy. This week, he has continued this trend with the arrest of presidential candidates MP Robert Kyagulanyi and Patrick Amuriat coupled with an exceedingly violent response to those protesting their detention. This type of conduct on the part of Mr. Museveni and state security forces is completely incompatible with holding free, fair, and credible elections, which are scheduled for January 2021. I condemn these state-sanctioned attacks against the Ugandan people and call for the immediate release of Mr. Kyagulanyi and Mr. Amuriat.”
Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Nelson Chamisa said in a tweet that he was following election campaigns and lamented Bobi Wine’s arrest saying the legislator being terrorized, blocked from campaigning and denied access to the media—rights he ought to enjoy as a contestant.
Chamisa, a critic of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, called out President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who is seeking to extend his rule to four decades for entrenching his ‘dictatorial habits’ in Uganda.
“Dictatorship must go, young people must save and serve Africa. Real change is unstoppable, #PeoplePower,” reads the tweet by Chamisa.
South Africa’s Mmusi Maimane called upon the African Union chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa to urge his Ugandan counterpart, President Museveni to comply with the African charter on human and people’s rights and African Charter on democracy, elections and governance.
In Kenya, Ugandan supporters of opposition Bobi Wine protested his arrest and called for his release and an end to police brutality, outside the Ugandan High Commission in Nairobi, Kenya.
ICC on Museveni
in an interesting development, the International Criminal Court(ICC) has formally acknowledged that it received the petition that was submitted by the ‘People’s Government’ which is headed by former FDC leader, Dr Kizza Besigye, against president Museveni.
The petition that was submitted to the ICC pinned Museveni and his government on alleged human rights abuse and violations among others.
In a letter dated 11 November 2020, the office of the ICC acknowledged the receipt of the document.
“This communication has been duly entered in the communication register of the office. We will give consideration to this communication as appropriate in accordance with the provision of the Rome statute of the International Court,” the letter reads in part.
“Please note, this acknowledgment letter does not mean investigation has-been opened nor that an investigation will be opened by the office of the prosecutor,” the letter adds.
According to Mark Dillion, the head of Information and Evidence Unit office of the prosecutor, as soon as a decision is reached, they will inform the petitioner in writing and provide the reason for the decision.
Besigye said they are grateful to their legal teams and volunteers who, in spite of great intimidation, collected signatures from all parts of Uganda.
UJA House, Bombo Rd,
Keti Falawo Zone, Kawempe Division
Kampala – Uganda