Kampala Mayor, several opposition leaders arrested

By Nangayi Guyson in Kampala Uganda

Angry Kampala residents throw rocks and stones at fleeing Ugandan policemen.

Police in the Ugandan capital Kampala have arrested the city’s Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago as well as several other opposition leaders including Dr Kizza Besigye, leader of the main opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) after a police officer was stoned to death during a visit of the mayor to a rundown part of the capital.

The officer whose name was given as Inspector Bosco Ariong by police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba was stoned to death during skirmishes between supporters of the Mayor who belongs to the opposition Democratic Party and riot police. Another officer who is yet to be named suffered serious injuries and has been admitted to Mulago Hospital.

Mr Lukwago was on a mayoral inspection of a rundown part of the city called Ben Kiwanuka Road and was being followed around by a huge crowd that was confronted by riot police. In a desperate attempt to disperse the crowd, police used teargas which led the crowd to retaliate by picking up rocks and stones in what resulted into a fierce battle between the police and the crowd.

In addition to Dr Besigye, police arrested Kampala Woman MP Nabila Sempala (FDC), FDC women league chairperson Ingrid Turinawe, Kawempe Municipality Mayor Mubarak Munyagwa and many other opposition members not mentioned here. Police said they sent in the riot police to stop the Mayor’s visit from disrupting business in the area. They added that the visit had not been cleared with the police and was considered unlawful.

As the Mayor went about inspecting the dilapidated city area, he was joined by hundreds of supporters who hurled abuse at police as they were being tear-gassed. Ben Kiwanuka Road is one of the poor roads found in the capital Kampala. It divides Owino Market and the Kisenyi slums, the road is very poor, filled with potholes and is almost impassable due to the poor drainage system. The potholes hold contaminated water harbouring misquotes which are dangerous to human life.

The road becomes impassable especially when it rains as pedestrians, motorcyclists and vehicles try to get through in what at times turns into muddy mini-lakes. In addition to that, alongside this poor road is where you find vendors selling so many kinds of fresh or perishable commodities like tomatoes, cabbages and so many others not mentioned here. There have been so many protests staged against its poor state but Kampala City has not done enough to rescue the situation’

Kampala City Council (KCC) early this year received UgShs1 billion (Approx. US$402.414.49) to construct the forgotten road but very little seems to have been done so far on the road repair. Last year KCC carried out emergency work on the road worth UgShs50 million (Approx.US$20,120.72)which did not last long before traders were again complaining of the poor state of the road that was costing them loss of business as customers could not bear the state of the road.

This week, opposition politicians called on peaceful demonstrations against the police, whom they accuse of using excessive violence to break up marches. But the police have often warned against any demonstrations in the city saying demonstrations must be held outside the central business district to avoid disruption of business. Opposition leaders could not be reached for comment.

President Yoweri Museveni’s government has since last year faced a series of demonstrations that have been handled brutally by police. But government has been quick to accuse opposition politicians for using demonstrations to overthrow the government. According to the Uganda Red Cross, about 11 people died and more than 480 were injured during last year’s walk-to-work protests against the rising cost of living that began in April 2011.

The Mayor and opposition politicians were later released on bond while Dr Besigye was said to have been remanded in his home, something he is by now used to as it has happened several times within the last year.

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