Police block Besigye, fire teargas and live bullets to disperse supporters
Posted Wednesday, January 6 2016 at 16:59
Scuffle. The FDC presidential candidate was being led by locals who demanded that he sees the poor living conditions in the displaced people’s camp.
FDC presidential candidate Kizza Besigye and other senior party officials were lucky to escape with minor injuries when police opened fire and unleashed tear gas in a violent attempt to prevent the politicians from meeting locals at Teriet camp in Bukwo District yesterday.
Dr Besigye is the second Opposition candidate to come under police fire as the State machinery intensifies actions aimed at restricting their access to the local population.
Already, visits to hospitals, churches and other public places have been restricted after the poor state of public health infrastructure was captured by media accompanying the Opposition politicians – thereby upsetting the government.
In Lango, Go Forward candidate Amama Mbabazi’s campaign faced a similar tear gas and bullets attack slightly over a week ago.
Under the country’s electoral laws, politicians running for public office are free to enjoy unfettered access to the electorate as they canvass for votes.
But the prevailing restrictions on those challenging Mr Museveni’s 29-year hold onto power amplify criticisms that the ground for the 2016 election, like previous ones, is unfairly tilted in favour of the incumbent.
In yesterday’s violence, a man identified only as Kweyei was struck by a rubber bullet.
He was rushed to Bukwo Hospital as police continued trying to forcefully stop Dr Besigye from responding to a demand by the locals that he visits and sees the poor living conditions at an internally displaced person’s camp in Kapkoros, Teriet in Senedet Sub-county, Bukwo District.
Teriet camp is one of the five in which people who lived on the land that was gazetted into Mt Elgon Forest Reserve in 1993 were resettled.
Those living in the camps say their condition is bad and that the government has in some cases reallocated the land it had given them.
In the scuffle at Teriet, Dr Besigye himself escaped with a scratch on the leg, and FDC secretary general Nandala Mafabi and party mobilisation secretary Ingrid Turinawe were slightly injured too, as was Mr Sadik Amin, the party’s secretary for defence and security.
Mr Arap Mutai, a resident of Kapsegei camp, said his family was among those allocated land totalling to 12 acres per family in the camp in 2008.
In April 2015, he says, the government brought in other people and reallocated the land to the new settlers. The other camps include Benet, Yatui, Kisangani and Rwanda.
The FDC presidential candidate, on his way from a rally at Suam at the border with Kenya to another rally at Amanang, was stopped by a group of mostly elderly people who said they are residents of Teriet camp. They demanded that they show him around the camp, which they said was in a bad state.
Mr Gerald Twishime, the regional police commander Sipi region, ordered Dr Besigye not to go to the camp. Dr Besigye stepped out of his car and joined the cheering crowd, which he led through a police barricade to proceed to the camp.
Police first fired live bullets in the air with the view of dispersing the crowd but the march continued uninterrupted.
Tear gas was then lobbed into the crowd, throwing many of the people into disarray as a small group remained around Dr Besigye, who was still intent on proceeding to the camp.
Here, as elsewhere, the question of land and land grabbing is one of the key issues Dr Besigye focused on as he campaigned in the hilly, remote district that borders Kenya.
He also dwelt on the poor state of roads in the district, saying it takes one six hours to cover the 45km stretch between the bridge at Kiriki to Bukwo Town.
Yesterday’s journey through the hills over rugged roads strewn with boulders took about four hours, but Dr Besigye argued this was because we were travelling in big cars.