Thursday April 14 2011

WALK TO WORK CAMPAIGN: Chaos and bloodshed in Kasangati as police block Besigye again

A man arrested from his shop by Anti Riot Police on Bwaise road. Photo by Patience Ahimbisibwe

A man arrested from his shop by Anti Riot Police on Bwaise road. Photo by Patience Ahimbisibwe 

By John Njoroge & Tabu Butagira

Opposition politician is halted in his trek to work a few kilometers from his residence, but angry residents take on the law enforcers sparking mayhem.

Dr Kizza Besigye is holed up in a roadside trench where he sat in defiance of police orders to evacuate. About 70 supporters have now ring-fenced Dr Besigye, restraining police from being arrested. Scores have been arrested, handcuffed and beaten. Many more residents are dashing for shelter at the nearby Kasangati court.

The sitaution spun out of control about 7am on Thursday after a policeman fired live bullets in the air as a warning shot to obstruct the Forum for Democratic Change party leader.

Now the whole village is under blanket security and filled with acrid smell of teargas, and many pupils have been injured in canister explosions at Tender Talent Magnet School.

The commotion, in which supporters are wrestling police from arresting Besigye, is happening roughly some 150 metres away from Kasangati Police Station.

A man dressed in a Yellow NRM T-shirt, and whom residents suspected to be a disguised security officer has been badly beaten, his clothes ripped apart, as the crowd charges over Besigye’s alleged manhandling.

Unconfirmed reports say the first bloodied victim of the chaos has been taken to Mulago hospital with grave injuries.

Police at the scene say they have ‘orders from above’, literary meaning the Executive in Ugandan speak, not to allow the three-time presidential candidate walk to town.

Owing to random shooting, our reporter, together with other journalists, has taken cover behind the police station. Our photographer, Isaac Kasamani, who was in trenches where Dr Besigye lay when the chaos erupted, cannot be seen anymore and he is unable to receive telephone calls on his cell phone.

“There is total confusion; some angry residents are pelting the police and have begun blocking the road with stones, chairs and boulders. But traffic is still flowing,” says our reporter, Njoroge who is at the scene.

Two opposition leaders; Asuman Basalirwa and Kibirige Mayanja (JEEMA party officials) have reportedly been picked up and detained at Kawempe Police Station.

This is the second day of clashes between police and opposition politicians in and around the capital Kampala following declaration by a non-partisan platform, Action-for-Change, to citizens to walk to work to show displeasure with government over inflation that has jumped to double digits in just a month.

Prices of fuel, food and other basic commodities are spiraling beyond what ordinary Ugandans can afford and government is allegedly doing nothing to mitigate the dire situation, the campaigners say.

The Monday showdown resulted in police brutalising Dr Besigye, Democratic Party’s Norbert Mao and several Members of Parliament, an operation widely condemned by Uganda’s leading development partners, lawyers and human rights activists as “unnecessary, arbitrary and highhanded”.

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