Opposition politicians Norbert Mao and Muhammed Kibirige were by press time still under police detention after they were arrested as they tried to access the Constitution Square in Kampala to conduct a rally.
The politicians were part of a larger group that attempted to access the square in the heart of the city for a rally even after the police had insisted the area was out of bounds.
Also arrested with the politicians, who were protesting the rise in cost of basic commodities, was DP former candidate for the Budiope East parliamentary seat Moses Bigirwa.
Although other opposition figures Olara Otunnu (UPC), Salaam Musumba (FDC) and former independent presidential candidate Walter Lubega evaded arrest, they did not escape a flood of police water spray that left them dyed pink.
The group that escaped arrest relocated to UPC party headquarters at Uganda House, where they addressed the media and condemned the police action.
When contacted at Kira Road Police Station, where he was anticipating to be freed on police bond last night, Mr Mao said, “I am all pink.”
The DP president said the spray was an irritant, but that not much had gotten on him when the group was targeted by security forces.
The Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura, later told journalists at Kampala Central Police Station from where he oversaw the operation that he was happy his men had not used teargas.
He added that the same approach will be used to dissuade crowds from jamming Entebbe Road today when FDC president KizzaBesigye returns from seeking specialised medical treatment in Nairobi, saying his entourage “will be treated like a VIP convoy”.
Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba said the decision to use water cannons over tear gas was a “tactical” one. It is the first time the measure has been used by security to disperse walk-to-work protestors since demonstrations began just over one month ago.
“The colour is basically to identify people who are part of the riots,” she said. “Normally when we use tear gas we find everybody complaining ‘I wasn’t party’ – but this water targets the people who are part of the gathering, and you find that when you want to follow them up it is very easy for identification.”
She also said the choice to use the spray was due to the location of the demonstration.
“Because they were in central business district, we needed to use a tactic which may not affect other people not party to what was taking place,” she said.
Mr Manesh Dada, the proprietor of Dada Photo Studio, claimed that his photo printing machine worth Shs30 million was damaged during the fracas.
“In the process of stopping the protestors, police shattered my glass pane as they sprayed this liquid on the passersby,” he said, while mopping up his soaked floor.