KAMPALA –Police fired teargas and live bullets to break-up opposition politicians as well as activists, who had gathered at the Nsambya Sharing Hall, a Kampala suburb for the end-of-year prayers, before heading for a procession through the streets of the city.
Opposition politicians under their umbrella – United Forces of Change had assembled for a public end-of-year prayer but the Kampala Metropolitan Police said the organisers had not sought permission.
The group had on Friday morning, mobilised its fans, converging at Nsambya Sharing Hall, police gave them no opportunity to fulfil their mission, firing teargas. It later closed the gate to the Hall, ordering those who had gathered to vacate. But on realising that many had complied, police withdrew to the other side of the road, allowing a small group to perform prayers outside the gate.
Speaking after a short prayer, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, aka Bobi Wine – the president of the National Unity Platform – NUP, said the actions of the police could n’t demoralise the change-seeking Ugandans.
Kyagulanyi called upon all opposition supporters to come together and fight for change, adding that it was only when they were united that they would be able to defeat President Yoweri Museveni.
Dr Kizza Besigye, who also in attendance, said the police’s actions explain why last month they held a human rights conference on Uganda in Nairobi, Kenya other than in Kampala.
Besigye said if police could break up a peaceful prayer how about a conference aimed at publicising the torture that opposition activists and politicians were always subjected to?
The Lord Mayor of Kampala, Erias Lukwago decried what he called blatant violations of human rights. He said its actions like these that energise them to continue pushing until there was a change in Uganda.
The prayers were attended by politicians from the Forum for Democratic Change, NUP, the Conservative Party, and the People’s Progressive Party.
After the unscheduled short prayers and speeches, the group jumped into respective their vehicles; tried to drive to the city centre –only for the police and the army back-up to intercept them at the Nsambya Traffic lights. The politicians were redirected to access Jinja Road from Mukwano near the junction to Kibuli Mosque.
The standoff caused traffic jams on all roads leading to and outside Nsambya. But after about 20 minutes, the group driving in a convoy of about 20 vehicles, a fleet of boda bodas followed, bargained and agreed to follow police orders.
But a few metres away from the Jinja Road traffic lights, police and the military again intercepted the group, firing live bullets and teargas to specifically disperse the escorting boda bodas.
The police also arrested supporters and some online bloggers who were travelling in a Toyota Hiace and those hanging on Dr Kizza Besigye and Kyagulanyi’s car. The stand-off that lasted over one hour, led to a heavy traffic jam on roads leading to Jinja Road.
In a statement, police said they were forced to act because the meeting was unlawful.
“Owing to terrorism threats in the country, security agencies resolved that all public events in the country must be cleared by the Inspector General of Police.
“The planned end-of-year prayers organised by United Forces of Change at Nsambya Sharing Hall, today was not cleared and therefore it won’t take place.
The organisers are advised to seek clearance before they can go ahead with their planned prayers. We advised them to go and attend prayers in other places of worship,” said Patrick Onyango, the Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson, in a statement.
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