Business on Thursday came to a standstill after Police arrested Justice Forum- JEMA head Asuman Basalirwa and his deputy on Gayaza roundabout during a walk to work campaign.
Shops, furniture workshops and garages closed as police tried to engage the rioters protesting the arrest. Heavy antiriot police was called in dispersing the masses with teargas and live bullets. Mr Basalirwa and Kibirige Muhammad were later whisked off to Kawempe police station.
Mr Dennis Odongpiny, Commissioner of Police (Criminal Investigative Department) said they were deployed to ensure there is peace and order which the duo had violated.
“We saw them moving and they have caused a breach of the peace of the people. Imagine a situation where everybody is allowed to do everything they want in total disregard of freedom for others,” Mr Odongpiny asked.
But when asked why they only arrested two people, Mr Odongpiny, laughing, added that he was deployed to supervise and monitor Kawempe walkers.
“We are always blamed for catching the small fish. Now we have the big fish,” Odongpiny said in an interview at Kawempe Police Station, adding, “They are honourable people. They surrendered themselves to police when we surrounded them in a gentle manner and I thank them.”
However, he didn’t allow this reporter to talk to the suspects saying they were under custody but confirmed they would be charged with unlawful assembly.
One civilian, Ibrahim Batte, was injured by a stray stone as he tried to find his way back home. But even as he sought refuge under the police to have him taken to hospital, the police brushed him off arguing that they were not there to assist causalities.
Batte said, "I was on a boda boda (motorcycle) going to work but reaching here a stone hit me. I have asked police to assist me and they have refused. I can’t even see now,” as he requested to call his mother to come and take him to hospital.
But even as police continued to use water cannons to quell the blaze, rioters continued to burn timber for making furniture crafts on the other streets, blocking flow of motorised traffic on Gulu highway.
“Embela gyetulimu mbi nnyo. Govumenti eraba emiwendo gy’ebintu gyirinnye naye laba by’etukola? Tetugenda kukowa paka nenkya wetuli (We are in a bad situation. Government is just watching us suffering as prices of goods increase. We are not going to give up the fight for our own rights. Even tomorrow we are here),” Nsokakulya, a resident in Bwaise said.