Many protest victims were below 30 years, says survey

PHOTO: Faces of some of the people that died during the deadly November 18/19 protests that were sparked off following the arrest of opposition party NUP presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine in Luuka district. See more faces of the victims at the end of the story. PHOTO/NMG. 

What you need to know:

  • The series, starting today; chronicles the sorrow of grieving families and the untold stories of hope and young ambitions cut short by premature deaths after November 18/19 2020 deadly protests.

More than half of the people shot dead during last November’s protests were aged 14 to 30, according to our analysis based on accounts by relatives, friends and local leaders.

Nearly a dozen of the 54 victims confirmed by the government were in the productive 30 to 50-year age bracket.

Among the deceased were two septuagenarians; retired Uganda Management Institute lecturer John Kittobbe gunned on Kampala Road and Hajat Maliyati Nassanga, who suffocated to death of teargas while in admission at a clinic in Nyendo, Masaka City.

In interviews over two weeks, relatives and friends recounted the final hours of the victims and how each met their death. We today start serialising the accounts, which bring to life the unique story of each victim hitherto treated as statistics.

Our investigations show that security forces, whom witnesses identified by their uniforms and insignia to belong to UPDF, police and Local Defence Unit (LDU), allegedly shot at least a dozen of the victims in the head.

Bullets caught half-a-dozen in the stomach, a similar number were shot in the neck while about 10 took bullets in the rib cage, chest and back.

At least three of the lethal shots were directly attributed to men in plain clothes, part of many that fanned out with assault rifles onto city streets and neighbourhoods to quell the two-day protests. No security organ has owned them.

Mr Charles Twine, the spokesperson of Police’s Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID), who spoke to us on referral by Police spokesperson Fred Enanga, yesterday said inquiries into the November 2020 “murders” are underway but “not all acts” in the stray shootings “are crimes.”

“We are steadily progressing [with investigations] …We are doing it alongside other cases that are committed every day. It is not something that we can expedite given the nature of our manpower…,” Mr Twine said by telephone.

About 30 of the victims were shot in Kampala and a dozen in the neighbouring Wakiso, which were epicentres of the violent demonstrations, sparked by the November 18 arrest in the eastern Luuka District of National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine.

Protesters burn NRM candidates’ campaign posters during riots that erupted in Kampala following the arrest of presidential candidate Robert Kyagulayi on November 18. PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI.

The others were killed in Mukono, Luweero, Masaka City, Jinja City, Kyotera and Rakai districts, which, except for Jinja, lie in central region.

These computations are based on accounts offered to us during our investigations after police declined to share findings of its official inquiry.
A report of the investigations, including autopsy reports, were prepared and presented to President Museveni who in a November 29 televised national address said 32 of the 54 victims were “rioters.”

The President blamed the riots on Opposition politicians whom he accused of working in concert with unspecified foreign backers to cause mayhem in the country.

Mr Museveni also promised to compensate those killed in error and verifiable damaged property.

“We have been monitoring them through intelligence.  Working with criminal gangs, whom they pay money and give drugs, taking advantage of serious weaknesses in the police, some areas of Kampala were declared ‘no-go areas’ for law enforcement by these conspirators,” Mr Museveni said then.

A man carries stones to block the road during the November riots. PHOTO/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

Two weeks later, he fired the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Maj Gen Muzeyi Sabiiti, and replaced him with battle-hardened Maj Gen Paul Lokech. 

Our investigations show that nearly half-a-dozen of those killed in the protests were students, more than 11 were boda boda riders and six were mechanics.
The latter two categories mainly station by the roadside, the scene of running battles between protestors and security forces, rendering them vulnerable to being caught by bullets.  

One of the victims was hit by a speeding car whose driver appeared to have lost control when rioters reportedly pelted him with stones.
Police reported widespread incidents of indiscriminate stoning, beatings and harassment on the fateful days.

A Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) camera footage showed a man hitting a policewoman with a hammer while in another, scared women wearing the ruling party T-shirts removed them on orders of protestors who could be heard ululating.      

Dozens of people sustained varying gunshot injuries.
Among the deceased was an LDU operative whom a UPDF commander allegedly shot after he disobeyed an order to shoot a suspected rioter who was known to the LDU man.

The protests also took the life of Richard Mutyaba, a Local Council I chairperson in Luweero District, who was reportedly gunned by guards of a government official as he tried to rein in youthful protestors on Kampala-Gulu highway.

The series, starting today, chronicles the sorrow of grieving families and the untold stories of hope and young ambitions cut short by premature deaths.

Abridged version of  Museveni’s November 29, 2020 address 

Presdient Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. 

“…some of the political actors, working with anti-Ugandan elements from outside, have been promoting impunity and swearing that they will render Uganda ungovernable.  We have been monitoring them through intelligence.  Working with criminal gangs, whom they pay money and give drugs, taking advantage of serious weaknesses in the police, some areas of Kampala were declared ‘no-go areas’ for law enforcement by these conspirators. 

They have been saying that they will burn the petrol stations, etc.  When, therefore, [National Unity Platform presidential candidate Robert] Kyagulanyi (aka Bobi Wine) and [Forum for Democratic Change flag bearer] Amuriat, were arrested on November 18, 2020, those criminal gangs, sponsored by political opportunists and backed by some external elements, decided to execute their long-planned scheme. 

They started burning tyres on the roads, mounting illegal roadblocks, robbing Ugandans, beating people, attacking people with [the ruling] National Resistance Movement (NRM) uniforms, stoning cars, stoning security personnel, damaging government cars, etc. In spite of the weaknesses of the police that allow such impunity of lawlessness to persist in our towns, the overall security posture of Uganda is robust. 

A multi-force response was immediately activated and 1,014 suspects were arrested, of whom 843 suspects were charged in the courts of law including Hon Kyagulanyi.  699 were remanded, 93 released on court bail, while 113 were released on police bond, including Hon Amuriat.  21 were cleared and released and 37 are still in police custody pending [arraignment in] court, including those who burnt Wobulenzi Magistrate’s Court that [and] are facing the charge of terrorism.

Unfortunately, 54 people died in this confusion.  32 victims were rioters, some were hit by stray-bullets and two victims were knocked by vehicles … It is criminal to attack security forces by throwing stones or attempting to disarm them.  In that scenario, the police will legitimately fire directly at the attackers if they fail to respond to the firing in the air … We should not have a country of rioters…The idea that Hon Kyagulanyi, or any politician, is untouchable because he is a politician and if the police legitimately arrest him, there will be riots, is not acceptable and must never be repeated.

…You can see the videos of a criminal that was attacking a police woman and a group of criminals undressing NRM women. This will never happen, again. The perpetrators have tested the consequences of playing with fire.  It is wrong for some groups to only condemn the security forces, but never condemn law-breakers that attack innocent people, kill them, rob them etc …

The original mistake, of course, was by the presidential candidates that did not adhere to the Ministry of Health guidelines and to imagine that they are immune and can violate those safety measures with impunity. The court system should also help the country by strictly implementing the law so that nobody is led into temptation.

Police … should also audit the phenomenon of shooting people by ‘stray bullets’.  What was the original purpose of those bullets before they became ‘stray’? … 

I extend condolences to all the Ugandans and their families that lost their lives in these senseless riots.  The government will compensate all those who were not rioters, but lost lives in this confusion.  The government will also compensate those who lost their properties, if it can be verified.”

Police apology
Police on December 2 regretted using live bullets and apologised for the killing of more than 50 people shot dead during the November 18 and 19 demonstrations against the arrest of presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine. The apology was made by the director of police in charge of operations, Mr Edward Ochom, at the police headquarters in Naguru while meeting the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda.

Mr Ochom noted that the firing of live bullets to disperse crowds was uncalled for, adding that the police officers could have used teargas.

More of the victims of the November 18/19 2020 deadly protests.PHOTO/NMG. 

Some of the killed persons

Name and Age 
Fred Ssenkima-18
Juliet Nabukeera-36
Martin Owekikye-52
Willy Kayondo-25
Lemmy Musisi-24
Fred Nsubuga-19
Ayub Kongola-45
Grace Walungama-28
Absolom Kasirye-21
Twahir Ndugwa-23
Daniel Napulira-25
Junior Semanda-25
Reagan Robert-25
Peter Kintu-27
Gift Nsubuga-16
Juma Ssendagire-27
Ashiraf Kamoga-23
Richard Mutyaba-45
Walusimbi Arnold-14
Sophie Kusasira
Ibrahim Mutaasa
John Kitobe
Local Defence Unit personnel
Nabawanuka alias Mama Jackie
Huzairu Kiruja
Kansiime Onek
Baker Kato Lubwama
Unidentified persons   (8) 

Summary of those Killed

Location and Number
Katwe 07
CPS Kampala-06
Old Kampala-06
Kira Division-03
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