Bloody incidents that stained past polls

Friday June 19 2020

Mr Andrew Mwenda, then a Monitor journalist

Mr Andrew Mwenda, then a Monitor journalist (centre), and supporters of Dr Kizza Besigye in a scuffle following the arrest of Maj Okwir Rabwoni at Entebbe airport in 2001. FILE PHOTO 

By ISAAC MUFUMBA

1996 elections
The 1996 elections were a watershed in the history of Uganda because it was the first time the country got a chance to directly elect a president.

The elections, which were viewed at as a contest between supporters of Mr Museveni’s “No Party” system and proponents of political pluralism, saw the then president general of the Democratic Party (DP), Dr Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere, who was the candidate of the Inter Political Forces Cooperation (IPFC), and Mr Mohammed Kibirige Mayanja take on the incumbent.

As the campaigns entered the home stretch in April, violence erupted. On April 9, during Mr Mayanja’s campaign rally in Masindi Town, his supporters were pelted with stones before the police swung into action and made several arrests.

The next theatre of violence was in Rukungiri Town where pro-NRM youth, who had been hosted to a bull roasting party outside Sky Hotel, blocked Mr Ssemogerere for hours forcing him to cancel most of his campaign activities.

When he eventually left the hotel, his motorcade was stoned. The stoning was replicated in other towns of western Uganda.

There were claims that some of Mr Ssemogerere’s supporters had been killed during the campaigns, but the reports could not be independently verified.

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2001 elections
The 2001 elections have probably been the most violent in the country’s political history. For the first time, an NRM insider, former bush war fighter and Mr Museveni’s personal doctor during the guerrilla war, Dr Kizza Besigye, challenged the President for the top seat.

The campaigns were marred by violence that Parliament was forced to constitute a committee to investigate the brutality mainly against Dr Besigye supporters.

The report implicated several government officials, including a presidential adviser, Maj Roland Kakooza Mutale, and his paramilitary group, the Kalangala Action Plan (KAP), who were blamed for the spate of violence. Maj Mutale has always denied the accusations.

Hit and run truck kills 3
On February 4, a grey Toyota pick-up truck ran into a crowd of Dr Besigye’s supporters in Kazinga Zone in Namanve between Bweyogerere and Seeta trading centres, killing three people, Ivan Wafula, Thomas Nganda and another unidentified man. The accident also left 30 others injured.

The then deputy police spokesperson, Mr Eric Naigambi, described the incident as a “well-planned move.”
Mr Grace Turyagumanawe, the then police chief of traffic and road safety, said the car was being driven by a Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldier, Mr Alex Erimo.

He said Mr Erimo had gone into hiding, but his boss, who was not named, had promised to help police apprehend him (Erimo). The matter was never followed up.

Rukungiri shooting
In early March, after Dr Besigye had held a rally in Rukungiri Town, soldiers of the Presidential Protection Unit (PPU), now Special Forces Command (SFC), opened fire in the town, killing a one John Baronda.

The soldiers had been deployed to the district in the early days of the campaign. Dr Besigye later said the PPU soldiers, who also wounded many others, had been under the command of Lt Col Ndahura Birakurataki.

In 2012, Lt Col Ndahura sued Dr Besigye for alleged defamation, but the case has never been resolved while the cause of the shooting remains unresolved too. Gen Jim Muhwezi, the then Rujumbura County MP, claimed Dr Besigye supporters provoked the shooting.

“Besigye supporters threw stones at Museveni supporters. One woman was injured. More stones came from behind Agip Petrol Station where Besigye has his campaign offices. When the soldiers saw blood, they reacted. They shot in self defence,” Gen Muhwezi told the media at the time.

However, Reform Agenda’s Anne Mugisha said the soldiers shot without any provocation. She told the French news agency, AFP, that there was more than one death.
“The body of Johnson Baronda has appeared. But there are suspicions of three other bodies which have been taken to unknown destinations,” Ms Mugisha said.

The actual number of people who died during the 2001 elections countrywide is not known, but Dr Besigye told Democracy in Africa’s Angus Barry’s on December 11, 2013 that: “2001 was the most violent election our country has ever had. We lost about eight people as a consequence of their support for my campaign. Three were gunned down at our rallies and others died in different parts.”

Bulange killings
On February 15, 2006, Dr Besigye and other FDC party officials had paid a courtesy visit to the then Katikkiro Dan Muliika.

A reserve force commander, Lt Ramathan Magara, attached to the office of the Rubaga Resident District Commissioner in Kampala, opened fire on a crowd of FDC supporters at Bulange in Mengo, killing Vincent Kavuma and Gideon Makabyi and injuring Haruna Byamukama.

Lt Magara had attempted to drive through the crowd who did not give him way. Frustrated, he pulled out his AK-47 rifle and fired indiscriminately.

Mr Fred Bamwine, the then deputy RDC, defended Magara, claiming that the mob had attacked and vandalised his office, burnt a motorcycle and ransacked a vehicle, prompting him to open fire. However, Mr Bamwine’s claims remain unproven.

In June 2009, the High Court sentenced Lt Magara to 14 years in jail for manslaughter. He appealed but the Court of Appeal upheld the sentence.

UPDF trucks injure Besigye supporters
On February 20, seven armoured trucks drove into a crowd of Dr Besigye’s supporters at Anthony Zone in Mukono Town. Five people, including Mr Robert Mugerwa, Mr Medi Kyesswa, Ms Oliver Babirye, Ms Ruth Busingye, and Ms Nelly Kasalita, suffered injuries.

Dr Besigye was at that time atop of his car waving to supporters ahead of a scheduled afternoon rally.
He shouted at the soldiers as they forced their convoy through the crowd of supporters, but they did not stop. Instead, they fired shots in the air forcing the crowd to scamper to safety.

2011 elections
On January 19, 2011, photo journalist Michael Kakumirizi, and an NRM official, Mr Francis Owino, were injured when a fight ensued between supporters of the Opposition FDC party and NRM at Aloi Trading Centre in Alebtong District.

The fight broke out when NRM supporters hurled stones at Dr Besigye followers shortly after the Opposition leader arrived to address a rally.
Journalists on Dr Besigye’s campaign team and members of his security detail were accused of joining the fight on the side of FDC supporters.

Subsequently, the head of Dr Besigye’s police escorts, Mr Charles Tumuramye, was arrested for allegedly inciting FDC supporters to fight those of NRM

2016 polls
On February 15, 2016, three days before the polls, police arrested Dr Besigye twice and fired teargas in various parts of the city as he engaged his supporters in running battles following attempts to block him from holding rallies.

The supporters reacted by pelting stones, burning tyres and campaign posters of Mr Museveni. One person, who was only identified as Daniel, was shot dead and eight others injured.

2001 elections

Maj Rabwoni’s arrest

On February 20, 2001, Dr Besigye, his wife, Ms Winnie Byanyima, and other members of his election team were waiting at Entebbe airport to board a chartered flight to Adjumani District on a campaign trail. The military and other security personnel stormed the VIP lounge where they were seated. The ensuing confrontation sparked violent scenes in quick succession between the security and Dr Besigye’s team.

After more than three hours of violence, Dr Besigye’s team was subdued. Maj Okwir Rabwoni (pictured) was arrested. Soldiers hauled him into the back of a double-cabin pick-up truck and then sat on his body as the truck sped off towards Kampala.Maj Rabwoni was then the Western Youth MP, and the younger brother of the late Brig Noble Mayombo, the then Chief of Military Intelligence. Maj Rabwoni had broken ranks with his brother and chosen to support Dr Besigye’s Reform Agenda where he headed the youth desk.

imufumba@ug.nationmedia.com