By Saturday evening, police sources said nearly 50 people had been confirmed dead following the confrontations between civilians, the military and the police. The death toll was still expected to rise because dozens of wounded citizens remained in critical condition in hospitals.
How the intelligence services seem to have been caught unawares about a spontaneous outbreak of demonstrations that turned riotous in many parts of the country is still unclear.
National Unity Platform (NUP) party presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, was arrested in Luuka District in eastern Uganda, and the planners of the arrest might have thought the scene was very well removed from Kampala, the supposed epicentre of his support.
However, hell broke loose on Wednesday once a video of his arrest went viral. In the hours that followed, civilians were hunting down fellow civilians and security people alike, and security people were shooting without much reflection.
On day two of the protests – Thursday – armed people dressed in civilian attire also got out of their shell and started shooting in the city.
Social media enabled many citizens to capture ghastly events as they unfolded. Somewhere in Kampala, three ununiformed gunmen were captured in a video clip shooting in the air using AK-47 assault rifles. In their company is one Local Defence Unit (LDU) man, also similarly armed but not shooting. He takes orders from one of the ununiformed gunmen.
Vehicles are at a standstill and people are stranded. The video clip is shot from one of the vehicles. One woman is inside the vehicle with her mother and other family members. In a shaken voice, she cries out to her mother, fearing that she would be killed before even giving birth to a single child.
Her mother was more assured – maybe just for the sake of her agitated daughter – saying the gunmen were just shooting in the air to scare away protesters but would not kill them.
In another video clip, people trapped between buildings stream out in single file, hands up. A policeman armed with a machinegun and a baton watches over them. The lucky ones pass without incident. One unlucky man, dressed in a light blue shirt, takes a heavy blow in the chest from the man dressed in police uniform. It must have hurt since he is caught off-guard, both hands up.
Another man donning a maroon top takes a blow to the hip, while his counterpart - also dressed in a light blue shirt – takes a baton to the back. Another man, dressed in a dark shirt, takes a blow to the chest and a baton to the back.
It is hard to tell how the policeman selects who to hit and spare. Four or five people pass unhurt before he pounces on his next victim.
In another video clip posted on social media, half a dozen soldiers walk in single line. The woman who recorded it leans over in an office a few floors off the ground, with her vantage point enabling her a bird’s eye view of the security men.
One of the soldiers notices that the woman is recording a video of their activities and he is not amused about it. He takes aim with his gun. The woman continues to record, focusing on the soldier.
“There is that guy trying to point a gun at me, like to say ‘why are you recording us’ ...” the woman says as she goes on with her recording. In an instant, the soldier releases a bullet in her direction. Out of breath, the woman screams, first saying is tear gas which has been lobbed in her direction, and then corrects herself to say it is a bullet that has been sent her way. She tilts her phone camera to reveal a hole in the glass window through which the bullet had passed. “We are being shot at in the building,” the woman screams, seeming to finally realise the enormity of the moment she has just been through and how lucky she is to still be alive.
In a grisly video, a vehicle with government registration plates speeds through an area. People –women and men – stand in a compound of a commercial building and shout “People Power, Our Power”, which is Mr Kyagulanyi’s slogan. A soldier on the speeding vehicle takes aim and shoots two of the chanting people.
Another video clip was captured at Nasser Road in Kampala. “Nasser Road is on fire, free Bobi Wine, free Bobi Wine,” an announcer shouts at the top of his voice. And he means his words in the literal sense.
Pieces of paper and wood are set on fire in the middle of the road. People are jumping up and down, shouting the presidential candidate’s slogans and others carry his placards. Others are pulling down Mr Museveni’s campaign posters and putting them on fire.
As all this unfolds, three armed policemen keep watch, probably waiting for reinforcement as one of them is constantly talking on phone. They are armed with machineguns and seem to judge that the situation does not warrant the use of live ammunition. After about a minute or two, reinforcement arrives and the demonstrators scamper for safety after bursts of tear gas.
A number of civilians run amok too, and they too are caught on camera.
A scene is captured on video on the Kampala Northern Bypass on Wednesday. Thugs lay in wait as a commuter taxi parks by the roadside. They pounce on the passengers, who are disembarking. One woman has her phone grabbed from her and she hurries away in tears to escape further trouble. The seven goons then ransack the passengers for whatever they could make off with, leaving one of the men who was in the taxi, badly beaten up.
On Luwum Street in Kampala, men are heard in a video clip ordering a woman who is wearing a yellow T-shirt to pull it off. They order a woman walking to surrender her scarf so her counterpart would use it as a top dress. She obliges. In this area, on this day, it is criminal to put on yellow, the colour of the ruling NRM party.
In another video clip, men armed with clubs descend on a man wearing a yellow T-shirt supplied by the Museveni campaign team. They flog him with speed and pull off his T-shirt, leaving him bare-chested. They throw his T-shirt to the burning heap in the middle of the road and jubilate wildly as the fire consumes it.
Speaking from Moroto District where he was campaigning on Thursday, President Museveni took issue with those who attacked NRM supporters. He said: “Those who have been attacking the NRM people in the Kampala area will soon lose that appetite. You will see a uniform of NRM and you feel you cannot touch it; you don’t have appetite to touch it, even if they leave it abandoned it will not be touched. They have entered an area we know very well, of fighting. That is up to them. Whoever started it will regret.”
Candidate Museveni, who is also the president of Uganda, was perhaps not well briefed about other Ugandans who suffered at the hands of thugs, especially on Wednesday. An editor at Daily Monitor was attacked on his way back home on Wednesday night. Thugs threw a log in the road as he approached. He escaped with his vehicle badly damaged.
Many other people posted on social media how they had been attacked on their way home. Thugs hid in dark corners and pelted motorists with stones and many had their property grabbed from them, in addition to being beaten up.
Many of the protesters seemed to care about politics and engaged in the protest believing that their candidate, Mr Kyagulanyi, had been unfairly arrested.
One seemingly young man who seems to espouse such a view was captured on video. His left arm was grazed by a bullet, with the bullet rocketing through the lower side of his shoulder before it exited his body. He was bleeding and struggling to remove the black vest on his body. A woman nearby was concerned about his life and was heard cautioning him that he could get killed. “I don’t care if I die so long as you who stay behind live in a free Uganda,” the man said in Luganda.
But for many others – like those who waylaid people on the Kampala Northern Bypass and other parts of Greater Kampala – the occasion presented them with an opportunity to rob.
Appearing on the Frontline talkshow on NBS TV on Thursday night, Maj Gen Henry Masiko, the political commissar of the army, warned that more deaths could be registered unless the civilians changed their approach.
“I received a report from Busega that a civilian confronted an armed person – a legally armed person, an LDU - grabbed a gun and shot him dead. This resulted, of course, in exchange of fire. I understand the one who did this act also died. So those are two lives lost in one incident, but provoked by an uncivil act,” he said.
What they said on twitter
"We can do our politics but we must collectively fight and guard our peace. The enemies of Uganda and of our progress would want to exploit the political situation to cause mayhem but the government of Uganda will deal with them!’’ Frank Tumwebaze, Gender minister.
In the ongoing protests and the crackdown on them, one of the revelations is just how many ‘sleeper militias’ Uganda has. All sorts of fellows in civvies, in vests, in sapatu, etc with guns shooting at people. Who knew?’’ Onyango Obbo, journalist.
The idea is to stop Bobi Wine from campaigning while they campaign and they are ready to cause a madness but no matter what the case may be, they are on borrowed time...’’ A Pass Bagonza, Musician.
So sad a country that takes pride in being a peacekeeper for the region cannot get through a routine election without lives [being] lost. We need to do better as a country,’’ Dr Nataliey Bitature, activist