Violence, Death Continue Ahead Of Uganda Elections

Last Monday, after weeks of deadly encounters between the supporters of National Unity Platform and the Ugandan security agencies, the presidential candidate of the NUP, Bobi Wine went to twitter and tweeted, “This is war, not a presidential campaign.” Recall that it was reported that a police can ran over NUP supporters in an attempt to block the opposition presidential candidate from accessing a campaign rally avenue which eventually lead to the death of one supporter and at least four other supporters injured. At the next NUP campaign stop, police men were seen firing tear gas and live bullets to disperse the supporters. The injured this time around included one of the police guards officially allocated to the presidential candidate as he was shot in the face with a rubber bullet. At the third campaign rally, police fired live bullets at the presidential candidate’s car as he attempted to drive through a military barricade set up to block him from driving through the center of Jinja City Centre. One bullet struck the windscreen of his car, missing a fellow MP, Francis Zaake who was in the co-driver’s seat. All these made Mr. Kyagulanyi to suspend his campaigns and return to Kampala to meet with the Electoral Commission Chairperson to demand an intervention. Barely a month into the election season and it is already turning out to be the bloodiest general election in the country’s history with more than 50 people shot dead in protests especially the one that broke out after Nr. Kyagulanyi was arrested. The violence springs from the manner of campaigning in an election many saw as a foregone conclusion last year. Earlier this year, the Electoral Commission issued guidelines to all candidates barring them from carrying out processions and huge rallies, limiting campaign meetings to 70 people and asking candidates to use  social media, radio and televisions to campaign. The Electoral Commission noted that this was to contain the spread of the coronavirus during the campaigns. The rule was later relaxed to 200 people. However, most of the 10 candidates seeking to end President Yoweri Museveni’s 35-year grip on power have tasted the wrath of law enforcement agencies seeking to enforce the rules. They have either been arrested, blocked from accessing hotels, had rallies dispersed by tear gas, blocked from accessing rally venues in some districts or thrown out of radio and television stations.

NUP presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine poses for a photo before setting off to resume his campaign trail. Today he’s expected to campaign in Kibuku, Budaka and Manafwa districts

Opposition parties point out that there was no effort to enforce the rules during the ruling NRM party primaries in October. They argue the rules are meant to handicap and not protect them. Several military and police vehicles follow main opposition candidates, firing tear gas and live bullets to disperse supporters standing by the roadside to wave at them. According to police spokesperson, Fred Enanga, “the force is only enforcing Electoral Commission guidelines.” President Museveni campaigns by addressing small groups of party candidates and top local officials and has defended the robust enforcement of the Covid-19 social distancing rules by law enforcement agencies. However, local ruling NRM party leaders and handlers often mobilize masses to make processions and stand by the roadside to wave at him and his motorcade as it drives by, with the police looking on. The Inter-religious Council of Uganda, some cultural leaders and other opinion leaders last week condemned the violence and asked police to investigate and bring all culprits to book. While the security forces are using CCTV camera footage to identify and arrest rioters, no security officer has been arrested in connection with the killings.

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