Views from Fiona: Kampala in Mayhem as Dr. Besigye is Arrested

Views from Fiona: Kampala in Mayhem as Dr. Besigye is Arrested


Given the public reaction we saw on the streets of Kampala this week, and as March 2006 approaches, how ready is the police in sustaining massive riots in Uganda? Fiona wonders...

By Fiona Abaasa
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First published: November 17, 2005


The arrest of Dr. Kiiza Besigye, Forum for Democratic Change president, at Busega on the outskirts of Kampala city, created havoc on Monday afternoon November 14, 2005, stretching into the night and Tuesday. Kampala streets witnessed scenes of riots and running battles with the police forces. The rioters destroyed people’s property, looting, burning cars that the fracas was unbelievable! Police reacted in kind splashing tear gas and water in huge measures to repulse the rioters. By evening time the situation was so bad that there was no public means of transport in and out of the city center.


Dr. Besigye was arrested as he returned to Kampala from his northern Uganda tour. This angered a lot of people and they took to the streets to protest and show their disgust on how retired Col. Besigye and the opposition at large is being treated. By the time the police entourage accompanying Dr Besigye arrived at Central Police Station [CPS], there was a mammoth crowd chanting opposition slogans, brandishing Dr Besigye’s 2001 election posters and demanding that he be set free, that police had to disperse the crowds. The lumpens and rogues received the opportunity as God sent and started looting and destroying the property. Innocent citizens lost their valuables and others abandoned their cars on the roads for fear of their lives. On Kampala I witnessed people closing their shops and offices, hurriedly anticipating the attackers. One hooligan remarked that Simba Telecom were lucky to have closed early otherwise they would have looted some new phones.

LEADERS
Our leaders must act with caution and stop inciting people into violence. They should practice political maturity. I was dismayed by several politicians’ utterances on radio stations calling on people to come in large numbers and riot. That is absolutely wrong! The government, media houses and the opposition must act rationally and calmly because every Ugandan has a stake in this country. Many people were on the radios telling others not to go to work on Tuesday and generally trying to incite others into wrongful acts. Several thousand innocent Ugandans inhaled a fair share of tear gas and I must say the road to 2006 is grim.

POLICE
The Uganda police took long to react to the riots otherwise they could have curtailed the spate of lootings early enough and they are partly to blame. Police should have been able to anticipate what Besigye’s arrest was going to cause fracas. This is a testing time for the police because the opposition are accusing them of partisan politics and favoring the government. The questions as we head to ’06: Is the police capable of handling sustained massive riots? Can they act above partisan politics for the good of every Ugandan?

TRANSITION
The road map towards the March ’06 general elections is tricky and so is the multiparty co-existence. The government had a lot of options and could have summoned Col. Besigye without hijacking him on the way into town. If there is mistrust and political witch-hunts, how can the opposition practice politics? This government would not be better than past governments. It is a political fact that Uganda has never had a peaceful transition and all our governments have been ushered in by the military. The government should level the political playing field for genuine multiparty politics to take place otherwise this is a farce.

CHARGES
Dr Besigye on Tuesday appeared before Justice Tibulya for mention and will go to the high court since the case is before the courts of law. We cannot discuss it but… RAPE? Where was the victim all this long? Why didn’t she press charges then? Something doesn’t augur well.

TRANSPORT
Monday evening was hell as there were no means of public transport in and out of the city till late. The taxis feared the running battles between the police and rioters prompting the brisk business of the boda-boda. Even on Tuesday, coming to town was tricky for those who worked but as I write early on Wednesday, calm has been restored. By Tuesday the police was working hand in hand with the military police and army. They were patrolling the streets repulsing a few rioters that had started again. Police spokesperson Asuman Mugenyi however allayed fears that there is no curfew set.

By Fiona Abaasa
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First published: November 17, 2005
Fiona Abaasa is a visitor of UGPulse.com.

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