By Nangayi Guysons – Kampala – As protests against rising food and fuel prices enters the third day spreading to several districts, the Ugandan government has banned all medias to broadcast live protests but to only give updates.
Apart from Ugandan Media being banned from live broadcasts of protests, the Uganda Communications Commission quietly asked Internet service providers to block communication on Facebook and Tweeter messaging platforms for 24 hours during the Walk-to-Work campaign on Thursday last week. However, Internet services carried on without a glitch that day save for subscribers on one network who experienced intermittent interruptions.
Army, police units and arrests
Army and police units yesterday used tear gas, bullets and truncheons to break up protests against rising food and fuel prices around the country, leaving at least one person dead in Kampala, and bringing the death toll to four in three days.
Mr Frank Mugisha, who reportedly died after being attacked in Kasangati, is the first person to die in Kampala. Last week, at least three people were killed in the northern district of Gulu during protests.
While police authorities said that Mr Mugisha was ill, Ms Robina Nakku, one of the eye witnesses, said: “That man (Mugisha) was first beaten by the military and when police came, they fired tear gas at him, he collapsed and was picked up by the Uganda Red Cross volunteers and later died on his way to Kasangati Hospital.”
Uganda Red Cross last evening confirmed the death and other cases of people hit by bullets. At least four people in Kireka, including two pregnant women, were taken to hospital. In Namugongo, a civilian suffered gunshot wounds to the head while five others sustained severe injuries in Kasangati. In Mukono, four men were hit by rubber bullets and taken to Mulago Hospital.
The walk-to-work campaign again spread to several districts, and saw several opposition leaders arrested. Democratic Party leader Norbert Mao was sent to Luzira prison until May 2 after he declined bail.
For the first time since the campaign started on April 11, uniformed soldiers were deployed in parts of Kampala other than just Kasangati, Dr Kizza Besigye’s neighbourhood. Uniformed soldiers and police conducted joint operations in the city and major towns across the country. Plain-clothed security also took part, although they were accused, by the police, of shooting a man in Kireka.
Police said yesterday they arrested 104 people, 50 of whom were charged with holding illegal assembly and inciting violence. Dr Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change and Mr Olara Otunnu of the Uganda Peoples Congress, were among opposition leaders charged with inciting violence and rioting after proclamation among other crimes. They were later freed on bail.
Dr Kizza Besigye attempted yesterday, for the third time in two weeks, to walk to work in protest over the rising cost of fuel and living. He was arrested a few minutes after leaving his home and held at Kasangati Police Station for about six hours. His arrest sparked off violent scenes after 10am when, according to Uganda Red Cross volunteers, a group of about 100 protestors blocked a road and hurled stones at soldiers a short distance from the police station.
The military lobbed tear gas in response before charging at civilians. After midday, the police decided that the crowd of curious onlookers gathered in front of the station should be dispersed.
Though some people across the street had thrown a few stones across the road at police vehicles, those directly in front of the station – many of them market vendors – were not violent. But two police officers still walked to the market stalls and released tear gas from two cylinders. Some people ran while others yelled, refusing to move. They were grabbed, kicked and shoved.
In the following hour, soldiers and police pursued people through alleyways and down roads, firing tear gas as they went. Suddenly, a Red Cross volunteer came running at full steam from one side of the police station – carrying a baby that had been tear-gassed.
Tear gas canisters continued to be fired. About 30 minutes later, another baby close to suffocation was rushed out from behind another building across the road, held in the arms of a frantic man. With the child’s wailing mother, the infant was rushed into a vehicle which sped off to Mulago Hospital.