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Issue 483 -- 30 Apr - 6th May 2011
5 Die In Violence In Ugandan Capital
KAMPALA, Uganda, April 30, 2011 — This capital city was brought to a virtual standstill Friday as angry protesters set up roadblocks, setting them ablaze throughout Kampala, and the police and military cordoned off neighborhoods in the largest and most violent day of protests since the demonstrations started nearly three weeks ago.
At least five people were confirmed dead and more than 150 injured, security and humanitarian officials said Friday, as the police and the military fired live ammunition, along with tear gas and rubber bullets, to disperse growing crowds. For a second time in 10 days, a 2-year-old was shot. The police said more than 350 people had been arrested. Other protests were reported in the cities of Gulu and Mbale.
Kizza Besigye, the opposition politician leading protests who was partially blinded after being violently arrested Thursday, was allowed to fly to Kenya on Friday for medical attention, according to the news station Nation TV, after initially being rebuffed.
“Some rowdy groups crowded, and began forming up at different places, trying to block access roads to the city center,” Kirunda Kivejinja, Uganda’s minister of internal affairs, said at a news conference, blaming Mr. Besigye for the violence. “I don’t know if you think we should allow that to happen, and then we call ourselves a sitting government.”
“The police therefore, within its constitutional mandate, restored law and order,” Mr. Kivejinja said, but added that the situation could turn fragile.
“Once power is contested,” he said, “that causes instability.”
President Yoweri Museveni’s son Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, head of Uganda’s special forces, was reported to have taken direct control over certain security operations in Kampala, according to the local Daily Monitor newspaper.
Troubles in this relatively peaceful and easygoing East African country began this month when Mr. Besigye called for demonstrations against rising commodity prices less than two months after Mr. Museveni handily won re-election after 25 years in power.
Though Ugandans had followed the uprisings in north Africa and also complained of the same problems, many here said they were simply too afraid to challenge the government.
That sentiment seemed to carry through to the current demonstrations in the country, which were led by Mr. Besigye twice a week and seemed to taper off within an hour.
But the scene changed substantially on Friday, with citizens throwing tree trunks, garbage and rubber tires into the middle of roads and setting them on fire. Security forces responded by deploying armored personnel carriers throughout the city. Many businesses remained closed, and normally busy streets were completely deserted.
Journalists filming the demonstrations and others trying to visit Kampala’s main hospital Friday were also harassed by the police, who threatened to arrest them and shoot them and, in one instance, threw a tear-gas grenade directly at a journalist.
When asked about the harassment, Mr. Kivejinja called it “your problem.”
The minister went on to criticize foreign news coverage of the unrest in Uganda, calling reporters “bedfellows” of Mr. Besigye.
“Dare not challenge the police,” Mr. Kivejinja said. “We are clever, too.”
Source: The New York Times