By Guyson Nangayi in Kampala
If you have been following all the series of protests in Uganda, then you should be asking questions like: What do the protests in Uganda indicate? Has the Ugandan government failed to cater for its citizens or is the country becoming a failing state? Serious protests in Uganda started just after the February 18, 2011 general elections that saw President winning with 68 per cent of the vote followed by his challenger, Dr Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), who won 26 per cent of the vote which he alleged that it was full of fraud. Before the elections, the FDC leader had threatened to stage Egypt-style protests if the election was rigged. Besigye was referring to the wind of change that has swept sub-Sahara African countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Algeria.
The first protest in Uganda after this year’s elections were “walk-to-work” which began on April 11 as a series of peaceful demonstrations against Uganda’s soaring inflation but turned increasingly bloody, with clashes between police and demonstrators in the capital Kampala leaving at least eight dead, more than 100 injured and 700 in jail. The government used excessive police force on those taking part in the protests and this prompted criticism of President Yoweri Museveni’s tactics even from his supporters. The brutal handling of demonstrations by police also gave birth to other protests in the country. Ugandan lawyers staged a three-day strike to protest the government’s treatment of demonstrators complaining about high food and fuel prices. The head of the Uganda Law Society accused police of using excessive force against the protesters. The Society’s president Bruce Kyerere also questioned the conduct of the courts handling the cases of protesters who were arrested.
Uganda women’s civil society organizations also joined the bandwagon in condemning the excessive use of force in quelling the “Walk to Work”. The women dressed in white, signifying peace, carried placards and empty sauce pans saying: “We are carrying empty saucepans because we no longer have the money to buy food.”
The United Nations Human Rights High Commissioner Chief Navi Pillay issued a statement in which she described the use of force as disproportionate and said they were impinging on the key freedoms of ordinary Ugandans and urged Ugandan authorities to immediately halt the use of “excessive” force against opposition politicians and protesters, saying it was only fuelling the crisis in the African nation. Since then however, protests in Uganda have become very common. After the walk-to-work protests, there was another protest that was organised by the Ugandan Traders and Business People in Kampala District against high fuel prices and the shilling that had depreciated to its weakest point in years hard-hitting their business. The traders association, Kampala City Traders Association (Kacita), announced the protest on July 1 over government’s failure to rescue the weakening Shilling. The Uganda Shilling had shot from Shs 2450 to Shs 2850 against the US dollar.
Meanwhile the Uganda importers exporters and Traders Association (UGIETA) had also threatened to stage a long sit-down strike against government’s failure to respond to the depreciating shilling against foreign currencies. Speaking to Journalists at Hotel Africana on June 5, the Deputy Chairman of the association, Edmund Bagumira said the high foreign exchange rate had failed them in business and would resort to plan B to have the situation averted. “Should our humble request fail…, we shall not wait to see all our investments wiped out by the high foreign exchange rate. We will pull out of business, close our premises and lie in wait till the business environment stabilises. Ours will even go for 2 weeks until the government comes with a practical solution,” Bagumira said.