Even with many of their leaders restricted from leaving their respective homes, FDC supporters yesterday held a series of demonstrations across the country, leading to confrontations with security agencies and several arrests.
Although the demonstrations fell short of the high billing that the FDC leaders had predicted, Police and UPDF still had a busy day involving running battles with protesters in downtown Kampala and suburbs such as Nakawa and Kawempe.
In the countryside, FDC supporters held demonstrations in districts such as Busia, Kamuli, Kabanda, Kabale, Ntungamo, and Isingiro. Several FDC supporters were arrested during these demonstrations.
By midday in Kampala, police had arrested at least 30 FDC supporters who came out to protest in defiance of a court order issued last week by Justice Steven Kavuma, which banned the party’s ‘defiance campaign.’
In city centre places such as Mini price and Kisekka market, tear gas and bullets were fired in the rainy afternoon as a joint force of police and army tried to contain protesting vendors. A number of arrests were made.
Business came to a standstill from around 1pm to 2pm as traders locked shops and evacuated the city. Around the same time, two military jets flew low over the Kampala airspace, although the UPDF spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, described the activity as part of “routine test flights.”
The DPC for CPS Kampala, Aaron Baguma, told The Observer that police got intelligence information that some people were planning a huge city demonstration that could have led to havoc and disruption of businesses in the city.
“After we got information, we deployed heavily in all corners of the city to make sure that there is peace and stability,” he said, adding that some protesters managed to beat their security for a while and hold their demonstration.
Baguma, however, added that police was able to disperse them with tear gas and arrest their leaders. According to Baguma, police deployments in and around the Kampala business district will remain tight even after President Museveni’s swearing-in ceremony slated for May 12.
Baguma named some of the protesters who police arrested in Kampala as Charles Mutasa Kafeero, Frank Kazibwe, Kassim Rusoke, Muhammad Munube, Godfrey Kyikashemeza, Joshua Kisekka, Ssekanjako Dakala, Musa Ismail Njuki and David Mwesigye.
On its part, the FDC kept a rolling update of its members who had been arrested, and urged those who were free to go and secure the freedom of their colleagues.
According to FDC, those who were arrested included Alex Gitta Mulibanga, the former FDC Entebbe municipality chairman, as well as Peter Othieno and four other members. They were reportedly picked from FDC Entebbe office and detained at Entebbe police station.
In Kyambogo, according to FDC officials, police arrested Kyambogo University students who joined the protests, led by the FDC Kyambogo University chapter chairman Moses Aguuda and the FDC national youth league secretary for foreign affairs, Joshua Akoyoyi. Others included the Kyambogo students’ guild speaker Ambrose Mukwaya and Paul Okuni. All were detained at Jinja Road police station.
QUIET FDC HEADQUARTERS
It is at the FDC headquarters in Najjanakumbi where protests were expected to start at 10am before ending at Nakibubo Blue PS. However, there was little sign of activity at Najjanakumbi, save for about 20 policemen and 10 military officers waiting outside.
Many of the party leaders were nowhere to be seen, except for the FDC deputy secretary general Harold Kaija, and chairman of the FDC national election task force Godfrey Ekanya (also the outgoing MP Tororo county).
Ekanya forced his way into the FDC office at 10:40am and, a few minutes later, he pushed away police officers under the command of Katwe DPC Samuel Mission.
Asked why they did not turn up to lead the demonstration, FDC spokesperson Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, told The Observer on phone that he and other senior party officials could not make it to the party premises because police had surrounded their residences.
“Our houses have been under siege; that’s why we couldn’t leave home, me and the leader of opposition plus some other leaders,” he said. The Kyadondo East MP said he was only able to leave his home at 1:20pm.
The FDC founding president Kizza Besigye, who was the party’s flag bearer in the 2016 presidential election, did not leave his home, as police continued its blockade over him. Kayihura said on Tuesday that Besigye would be kept incommunicado at his home “until further notice.”
However, the Police publicist Fred Enanga denied that they had confined the opposition leaders to their homes. Enanga said police had limited its role to “routine patrols” around the opposition leaders’ homes.
“We are not at their homes,” he said. “We were near their premises carrying out open surveillance so that if any of them came out to promote their defiance campaign, we would act.”
Other opposition leaders who were under house arrest by press time included Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago, Nakawa MP-elect Michael Kabaziguruka and Kawempe South MP Mubarak Munyagwa.