How Buganda riots caught city residents, traders off guard

Friday September 13 2019

Measure. Residents walk with raised hands as

Measure. Residents walk with raised hands as directed by security agencies during the Buganda riots in September 2009. FILE PHOTO 

By Andrew Bagala, Malik Fahad Jjingo, Dan Wandera

Simon Peter Lubwama, spokesperson of Kisekka Market Vendors Association.

There was client in Juba, South Sudan, who owed me $6,000. The client sent someone to deliver the money to me and boarded a plane. I had to pick him at Entebbe International Airport.
At around 2pm as I was travelling to Entebbe International Airport, I received a call from the Resident City Commissioner, Ms Rose Kirabira wondering, what had caused riots in Kisekka, a city suburb. She wanted to know how she could solve the problem before it escalated to other areas.
I told her that I would consult and get back to her. Thereafter, I received several calls from people, telling me that residents had started rioting.
I rushed to Entebbe to ensure that I received money on time. I picked up the person from the airport, but while returning to Kampala city, I found chaos at Kajjansi Town. Roads had been blocked with bonfire and debris; the situation was bad. I had to use shortcuts to reach a hotel in Mengo where my guest was to have a meal.
At the hotel, we ordered for food and as soon as they had brought food, the situation worsened. We did not eat. We left the hotel and retired to my home.
Days later, leaders of Kisekka area and I were summoned by security officers for a meeting. In the meeting, we made an assessment of the situation with the intention of identifying the trouble causers.
We found out that nearly all the suspects were not workers at Kisekka market. They would come from other areas and pitch camp at Kisekka where they would start causing trouble before fleeing.
We agreed with city leaders that security in area should be beefed up and that every worker in the market should be registered for easy identification. We even appointed some of our colleagues who were to work with security agencies to identify suspected criminals using our zone as platform to cause havoc.

Evelyn Ruth Omugave, a resident of Kyotera Town, Kyotera District
“I was in class at Kampala University, Masaka campus, when I started hearing gunshots.
Together with my colleagues, we decided to rush home. As soon as we went past the university gate, security operatives ordered us to turn back.
I tried to contact my parents in Kyotera but I could not since the mobile phone network had been disabled.
I spent the night at the campus and returned home the next day. At home, my parents later stopped me from going back to the university for a week as they feared that I could be caught up in the fracas.”

Vincent Kasumba Zziwa, the chairperson Masaka Development Forum. “I left my home early on the first day of the riots. I opened my shop at Muto Plaza and started working but at around mid-day, information started circulating that the former Katikkiro, Mr John Baptist Walusimbi, had been blocked at Ssezibwa Bridge. A few minutes later, chaos broke out and everything came to a standstill.
Through the window of my shop, I saw youth blocking the road using tree logs and old tyres. I was forced to move out of the shop and realised that some shop owners on the same building had already closed their shops. I did the same and went home. I spent two days without opening the shop for fear of being attacked by rioters. I remember advising other traders to do the same. Of course, we did not work during the riots yet we were spending. Accessing information was difficult since CBS Radio, which I usually listened to, was switched off following the riots. I cannot forget the fact that it was hard to communicate with people at home since all mobile telecommunication networks were also interrupted. It was indeed a terrible situation.”

Bolingo Ssenfuka, chairman Local Council I Central B Nateete
“I operated a business opposite Nateete Police Station. At 3pm, I saw that the situation was running out of hand, so I gave my motorcycle to my young brother to ride it to my home in Wankulukuku. He feared. So I put the motorcycle on my pickup truck and drove home using a bypass in Mutundwe.
At home, I heard from friends of allegations that I was part of the people who looted the police station and robbed a motorcycle, which had been parked in the yard. Some people had seen me driving a pick-up with a motorcycle and thought that it had been part of those looted from the police.
I hid for three weeks for fear of being arrested. Later, I gained courage and called the OC station to whom I detailed about the incident. The officer told to come out of the hiding, which I did. He said if they get any information that I was part of looters, they would arrest me. Their investigations did not find me culpable.”

Ssezi Ggita, a resident of Luweero District.
“I was in Mengo, Rubaga Division in Kampala City where I used to reside. On that day, I saw fellow youth mounting road blocks. They would stop each vehicle at the roadblock. They would ask motorists to identify themselves in a Kiganda way where you were supposed to state you lineage. The motorists had to speak Luganda and those who failed were beaten up. I was caught up in running battles between security forces and rioters. All roads were blocked and there were no taxis to transport us to Luweero Town, 45kms away from the city centre.
I had to run to a residential house in Mengo where a Good Samaritan provided me accommodation for free for two days until riots stopped. Thereafter I was able to travel back to Luweero District, my village.


Abdu Ssemwogerere, a resident of Busega
“I was travelling to the city centre when I found people running for their dear lives on Nakawuka Road. I alighted from a taxi at Nateete; there was a pharmacy owned by people of Asian origin. Youth gathered at the pharmacy and they were baying for their lives, calling them foreigners who had taken Ugandan jobs and businesses.
The people of Asian origin had locked themselves inside the pharmacy. The youth gained access to the pharmacy and destroyed the drugs. The pharmacy veranda was full of drug tablets and pills. It was later in the evening that the police and army came and rescued them.”

Isa Bakulumpagi, a transporter at Nateete Township
“I was at Nateete traffic junction. Soon after news broke that Katikkiro JB Walusimbi had been blocked from going to Bugerere, people started throwing logs and burning tyres in the middle of the road blocking traffic. The then officer-in-charge of Nateete Police Station, Mr Leuben Wasiima, arrived at the scene with his officers who removed the logs and put out fire. This made people angry. They hurled stones at him and his officers. The officers maintained their posts until Mr Wasiima was hit with a stone on the head, forcing him to run inside Nateete mosque with his shoes.
Seeing a weaken force, the rioters started looting shops and from vehicles. A truck carrying bags of sugar reached the junction but the driver refused to stop at the roadblocks manned by rioters. He drove to the police station, where rioters pursued the vehicle.
It was then that confrontation with the police station guards started. The people were so many for the officers to handle. The officers retreated and vanished. Sugar on the truck was looted and I saw people entering the police station. They threw documents outside, released suspects and set the vehicles in the yard and the entire station on fire. Motorcycles were also looted. When I saw that chaos, I knew that it would cause serious problems to the neighborhood, so I left. As I was walking near Nateete Market, I saw a Munyankole woman, who used to serve us food, being harassed by men. They asked her to pronounce omufaliso [a mattress in Luganda], but would say omufalaso (a Kinyakole pronunciation). They knew she was not a Muganda and slapped her. I and other men, who knew her intervened and rescued her.
I realised that I could not walk home since the road was impassible. Later, soldiers were deployed and I walked to my home while my hands were raised as per the orders of the army commanders.”