Uganda protests intensify; Riots break out in Kampala


By David Smith | Guardian.co.uk

Riots have swept across the Ugandan capital, Kampala, as protesters called for an Egyptian-style uprising against their autocratic president.

At least two people were killed and more than 100 wounded after soldiers fired live bullets and tear gas and beat demonstrators with sticks. Civilians fought back, blocking roads with burning tyres and pelting vehicles with rocks.

The growing unrest – sparked by rising food and fuel prices – gained fresh impetus after the brutal arrest of opposition leader Kizza Besigye on Thursday.

But President Yoweri Museveni, who was been in control for a quarter of a century, has met the protests with a show of force.

His military police were accused of attacking innocent spectators on Friday. One victim could be seen lying in a pool of blood, apparently after being shot in the head at a local market.

In the Karwerwe neighbourhood, police chased a teenager, Andrew Kibwka, with heavy wooden sticks and rained blows on him.

“I thought the police were going to kill me,” he said minutes later, his arm bruised and a finger bleeding. “I was telling them I’m harmless, but they just carried on. I did nothing to provoke them. They beat me because I was running away.”

The 18-year-old added: “I’m in pain all over my body. The police are being too brutal. I think Uganda will get worse if the president does not resign.”

A minibus, a taxi and other vehicles that tried to travel up the street were pelted with stones. Then soldiers in armoured vehicles appeared and fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, and people ran away in panic.

Standing at a market, Robert Mayanja, who described himself as an activist, said: “What they are doing now shows that Museveni rigged the last election.

“If you look at Uganda, why should we vote for him after 25 years? We have high prices, we have hospitals without medicine. Is there anything to vote for?”

Mayanja, 31, said a repeat of the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia was “definitely” possible. “What we are seeing here are people who are not armed but are taking a stand against armed forces,” he added. “People are ready. It’s just a question of time.

“We know they are going to arrest many people and put them in torture chambers. We know this regime has expired. These are the signs.”

Eric Mbiro, a 20-year-old student, agreed: “We are tired of this government because of the price of commodities,” he said. “There is no presidency in Uganda. The president rules the country like his own home. He is a dictator. We need change.”

But he was more sceptical about the prospects for an uprising, saying: “We will not manage to do what they did in Egypt because people here are poor. There is too much poverty in Uganda.”

Military police fired live rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas at numerous burning barricades blocking the main road out of Kampala to the international airport in Entebbe and sprayed adjacent residential areas with bullets.

Shell casings littered the main road, tear gas hung in the air and security forces beat local residents.

In Ntinda, angry youths shouted and hurled stones and chunks of concrete at passing cars. On one corner, a man ran up to a council vehicle as it drove by and smashed the driver’s window with a rock, raising cheers from onlookers.

A coded sign language is already in place. Motorists who hold two fingers aloft in a “v for victory” symbol, showing they support the rebellion, are allowed to pass unharmed, but a single raised thumb is interpreted as a pro-Museveni gesture.

Roads were blocked by rocks, cones, debris and burning tyres. A bare-chested man lay face down on the grass, his head being bandaged by Red Cross medics.

An eyewitness said the man had been the victim of an unprovoked attack. “The military police were making people clear the road, and this boy worked for 30 minutes,” Timothy Ssenfuma, a 35-year-old electrical engineer, said. “He said he wanted to go, but they beat him on the head and back until he collapsed. They were also beating up even women and young ladies just to clear the road.

“They are killing innocent Ugandans who are not even involved in the uprising. We appeal to the rest of the world to help Ugandans as they have in Libya and elsewhere.”

A teacher, who gave his name only as Nixon, claimed the security forces had launched an indiscriminate attack, saying: “The military police came and started beating up people.

“Some had to run away and others had to fight back to defend their friends. People have terrible anger at the way they were treated.”

The 32-year-old said he could not imagine an Egypt-like revolt in the short term. “But in the long term, I believe it can happen,” he added. “The military is still strong and many of the soldiers are unwilling to turn to the side of the people. But, in time, they might get tired of beating the people.

“I really look forward to it. As your friends are beaten and arrested, the professionals need to come out and organise the people.”

Red Cross official Richard Nataka said more than 100 injured people had been taken to five centres, including 78 , of whom 10 had gunshot wounds, at the Mulago Hospital.

He said one person had died and a pickup truck brought in a second body shortly afterwards. Red Cross vehicles were arriving at the Mulago Hospital every few minutes with more casualties.

Besigye has held five “walk to work” demonstrations against rising prices and what he calls a corrupt government. On Friday, demonstrators carried posters praising Besigye, and asked why police needed to use violence to arrest him.

Besigye has been released on bail, but is said to be in poor health and still unable to see after pepper spray was fired into his eyes.


4 thoughts on “Uganda protests intensify; Riots break out in Kampala

  1. samnv on

    This world wide revolution will spread like a wild fire very quick,every tyrants around the globe will face the wrath of the Almighty God.

  2. Oko Doko on

    There can never be freedom without sacrifices. There cannot be sacrifices without fearlessness and sustained struggle. Talks alone are rather cheap. But talks and actions will the beautiful freedom fruit harvest and reap.:)

  3. T. Goshu on

    Dear and Patriotic Ethiopian Youth,

    You have learnt huge and historic lessons from the people of Tunisia and Egypt how people make a huge difference if they stand firm and well- united to get rid of dictatorial regimes . Now the people of Egypt have brought the former terrible tyrant, Mubarek to justice. Is this not a glorious victory to the people ?? Absoluetely it is!! Is it the end of the story? Absolutely not!! But it is a glorious start!! There is no doubt the people of Tunisia will bring the former political bull , Ben Ali to justice too.

    The people of Libya are moving forward with huge and irreversible revolution by paying their ultimate sacrifices, and there is no doubt another political beast, Ghadafi will be forced to leave his palace where he used to design his evil doings and give his bloody instructions for alomst half a century . There is no way for him to run away from justice !! Does this mean that everything will be OK or no serious challenges to be encountered?? Absolutely not! But if the people continue in a well- determined and well-orgnaized manner, there is no doubt the future is bright.

    The people of Yemen are making a very unprecedented movement against another senseless political animal, president Salah. Now he wants to stay in his palace for one month to prepare himself for resignation. Is it credible to believe a man who did not only a kind of dirty political entrigue but sadly enough committed a huge and deadly political crime for the last 30+ years that he would keep his words in one month time?? Absolutely not!! People are very aware that he just wanted to buy time and reunleash his killing macine . That is why people did automatically rejectd his wicked attempt.

    Another mad political animal of Syria , Alasad whose authoritarian family has caused a kind of terrorized way of life among the people of Syria is murdering his own people in order to perpetuate his monsterous power. However, the more he becomes mad, the more he faces a decisive popular uprising. There is no doubt he cannot save his blood- stained power . History is not at the side of those brutal regimes at all!!

    We can mention so many ohter North and Middle East coutries which are in a state of unprecedented aspiration for freedom and shared prosperity.

    Now, the wind is blowing to Sub Saharan part of Afria and it seems that that wind of change has already hit Uganda.The popular uprising against of one of the terrible political beast of this part of the continent, Musevini will definately have a huge and even irreversible impact on the wave of popular movements in this part of Africa. Wether this will be the case or not depends on the question of how the people have taken the bitter lessons from North Aerica and the Middle East and how the people of other Sub Saharan Africa are ready to make history.

    It is from this perspective that the people of Ethiopia, particularly the youth should stay alert and take action in a very timely and well- pllaned, well- coordinated and well-determined fasion .

    May God help us to live free as He created us to do so!

  4. A'ggau on

    all African should stand shoulder to shoulder to support Uganda movement in kind and psychologically to get that buster out of office. it is time to press westerners to standing by African people not the tyrants and blood suckers of African public enemy like ,Museveni,basher,and meles etc .

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