Letter From Kampala: Why Uganda has become a country of demonstrators

By Guyson Nangayi in Kampala

A Uganda policeman tries to calm down protesters in Bwaise who were angry at the state of the road from Kampala, only three miles away.

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.

3 thoughts on “Letter From Kampala: Why Uganda has become a country of demonstrators

  • November 27, 2011 at 3:05 pm
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    Editor
    This letter from Kampala is a good one given that it gives more questions than answers and our correspondent has found the valve of movement in constructive journalism. I think I now have more answers to his questions and in the next three days I will personally add on to what he has written. It seems the degree of corruption has reach unimaginable proportions and the government cannot handle the disease called corruption. Uganda government lacks the qualities of good spin doctors in political science that the wind of international digital age and democratic reforms are sweeping slowly by slowly until the tide changes. The danger here is that we should not spark a conflict that reduces us to the Libyan people who are now begging for medicine in hospitals. We should engage the government peacefully to find root causes of the questions the correspondent from Kampala has raised. Our country is big for all of us. It has shared values and enough resources for all of us . Why have we created the gap that wants to swallow us because of greed? I want to thank this correspondent for the good analysis which opens more questions.
    Mine is a humble thanks Editor.

    Reply
    • December 2, 2011 at 6:19 pm
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      Only One Chance: Peaceful Transition

      Considering how NRM has ransacked Uganda for 25 years, only one chance remains, peaceful transition if the country has to survive the carnage should Museveni go down violently.

      By default, the current Ugandan Parliament has established a commission of inquiry which many Ugandans have been asking for, for several years now. Within a very short period of time, it has unearthed and brought to light how Museveni has been signing and authorizing theft for two decades.

      It is difficult to imagine how people being named in the scandal can survive the anger of people if by any smallest chance Museveni went down the way of the past: Violent removal of governments.

      Recently we saw what happened to Gaddafi. The people who captured him could not contain their anger because he allowed himself to go down violently and refused to listen to voice of reason.

      Uganda is running on borrowed time with nearly an empty gas tank which can only take it that far.

      The more the MPs dig deeper into NRM’s dealings and running of Uganda’s affairs, the emptier the tank becomes.

      The MPs now need to expand their Commission of Inquiry beyond corruption investigation, establish it into a formal institution, similar to the past South Africa one and ask people to appear in front of it with the express purpose of forgiving and charting a peaceful transition of government and not waiting for the useless pending election of 2016.

      This indeed will prevent the kind of bloodshed that would follow should NRM go down the Libyan way.

      To see the Bank of Uganda governor washing his hands the same way King Herold did after Jesus was convicted and saying ‘I am not responsible for his hanging’, is a sign that, time is up for Museveni to step down and avoid mob justice ala Jesus being led to Mount Calvary carrying a heavy piece of wood.

      Ladies and gentlemen, if you want Uganda to survive, it is time you lined up behind the MPs to ensure that there is a peaceful transition. Anything less than that, is a pool of blood in the waiting. I did not mean to spoil your weekend, but there is no sense partying when you have no dwelling to return to after the good time!

      Reply
  • November 29, 2011 at 12:36 am
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    Dear Editor
    I sort of hear the famous ‘elasopast’ better known as ‘plaster'; invented to cover up wounds or stop it festering or shall I add lock-in the smell of rotting puss. Fast forward we now have its hybrid – ‘pakalast’ – a product of concrete mixer of cement and sand for use by those who end up ‘six feet under’. The ‘plaster’ or ‘pakalast’ advocates should give up that posit because the anger being expressed by the nationalities is not about inventing ‘logic’ or ‘dialogue’ or according to their gurus of conflict resolution – ‘constructive engagement’ or avoiding ‘six-feet-under’.

    The anger and unrest being expressed by owners, i.e. nationalities, is simply that of taking back the habitat under their control to deal more effectively with the festering wounds inflicted upon them by ‘opinion makers’ and ‘opinion leaders’ who lost direction or the use of the acquired tools helpful to the nationalities make better decisions. They DO NOT LIKE the appeal of ‘personal merit’ or is it ‘meritocracy’ but that of realising the well-being of the nationalities or NOT ducking the responsibility to fulfill what the nationalities more importantly ‘like’ and to a lesser extent want.
    Namwanga

    Reply

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