NUP opens new headquarters after security standoff

National Unity Platform (NUP) president Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine and former FDC president, Dr Kizza Besigye cut tape to symbolize the official opening of the new NUP headquarters in Makerere Kavule, Kawempe Division, Kampala on November 3, 2023. PHOTO/ ABUBAKER LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • The Opposition party says police has not given any justifiable reason to restrict access to their new offices.

A security standoff lasting many hours came to a tense close yesterday afternoon, with the National Unity Platform saying it will commission its new headquarters in Kawempe Division today.

Party president Robert Kyagulanyi told media that the leading Opposition party was forced to change earlier plans to open the building on Thursday after a joint military and police force sealed off the premises. 
Mr Kyagulanyi, who has been stopped from addressing public rallies and was recently dragged off a return flight at Entebbe International Airport, frog-marched into a waiting security car and forcefully driven home, said they wonder what excuse the government will come up with today.

“They blocked us today, claiming [President] Museveni was in the place. Museveni is not going to be in the same place tomorrow (today). Together with fellow leaders, we have resolved not to fight with them and we have resolved to open our offices tomorrow (today),” he said at a press briefing held in Kamwokya, where their old head office is located.
The party leader wondered how the police could claim not to have enough manpower to cover both functions, and yet was still able to deploy such a huge force to ensure the NUP ceremony did not take place. 

“So, we are waiting to see what the regime brings as a new excuse. They also claimed that they didn’t have enough security to secure us since there were so many VIPs in the area. Never mind the fact that we invited them,” Mr Kyagulanyi said.

The stage had been set for a violent confrontation on Wednesday as the party insisted it would go ahead with its plans despite a police order not to gather. 
Party officials rejected police order, reasoning that because President Museveni would also be in Kawempe, another political function in the area posed security problems. 

Early yesterday morning area residents woke up to find the new headquarters in Makerere Kavule surrounded by soldiers and police. 
With tensions running high, party members, including MPs and invited guests were denied access to the shiny new building. Heavily armed soldiers and police ordered them to leave or face arrest.
Across the division, and especially in Makerere Kavule area, security was heightened and traffic disrupted, with the police saying the heavy deployment was in anticipation of public disorder. 

A spokesperson for Kampala Metropolitan Police, SSP Patrick Onyango said they had intelligence reports that NUP members would defy their orders not to gather.  “We had anticipated public disorder to arise or manifest from that area,” he said.
However, Mr Medard Lubega Sseggona, MP of Busiro East, told journalists they “would soldier on and proceed with the battle because this is what it means to struggle”.

NUP-police relations
Relations between NUP and the security forces, as is the case with other opposition groups, remain frosty. The political opposition has long been at the receiving end of violent repression of their activities by the police and military -- whom they accuse of being partisan forces, hell-bent on abusing their constitutional rights to freedom of assembly, among others.

Days ago, the Resident City Commissioner (RCC) for Kawempe, Mr Yasin Njasabiggu reportedly wrote to NUP instructing, in an October 31 letter addressed to the party’s secretary general, that the opening ceremony be rescheduled. Under existing government structures, RCCs and their district equivalents head security in their respective areas of operation where they also represent the President.
In the letter, NUP was also reportedly asked to inform all relevant authorities about their gathering. However, NUP says they never received the letter.