Uganda: chaos on the campaign trail as govt disrupts opposition candidates’ rallies

DECEASED: Christopher Aine, Mbabazi's former aide has been found dead

DECEASED: Christopher Aine, Mbabazi’s former aide has been found dead

The police and security forces in Uganda have yet again disrupted rallies of President Yoweri Museveni’s main opposition rivals Amama Mbabazi and Kizza Besigye.

On Tuesday, Mbabazi was denied a spacious venue in Kaabong district, and his rallies were disorganized by local authorities and police, and infiltrated by supporters of the ruling party’s candidate, President Museveni. Also on Tuesday, the former Prime Minister and erstwhile ally of Museveni’s had planned to address voters via a radio station in Kotido district but the show was cancelled at the last minute. “

I had been scheduled to have a talk show from 8:30pm to 10pm. Our people here had paid and we had a contract fully signed. But when we arrived I was told that the District Security committee had sat and agreed and decided they would not allow me to use the radio,” an infuriated Mbabazi told the press Tuesday night.

Mbabazi went on to express frustration the government was hell bent on curtailing their campaigning activities to favour the ruling party’s Museveni.

“I find this all strange, in addition to what happened in Kaabong town and Karenga Sub-county [in Kotido district]; where I found there was intensive intimidation of the people not to attend my rallies. In Kaabong they had bought or intimidated bodaboda riders like it was the case in Masindi where Police confiscated the public address system,” he added.

President’s Museveni’s other rival, Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) also could not campaign freely on Wednesday. The heavily armed police forcefully dispersed Besigye’s supporters in Bukwo district using live and rubber bullets, and teargas.

A number of people were injured in the melee and were treated at local hospitals. Defiant as always, Besigye and dozens of enthusiastic fans tried to breach a police roadblock prompting the police to shoot live and rubber bullets plus teargas.

It is not the first time the two main challengers of president Museveni have battled the police; last year the two men were arrested  and detained several times, and the police drew criticism and condemnation for “brutally” thwarting the duo’s efforts to campaign.

In October last year, the Uganda Police blocked Besigye and his supporters en route to a rally in the Western district of Rukungiri, video footages and images of the police undressing and manhandling FDC women leaders grabbed international headlines.

Last month, the rights watchdog Amnesty International accused Uganda police of arbitrarily arresting political opponents of the ruling party, and of using excessive force to disperse opposition rallies.

“The Ugandan authorities must put an immediate end to the harassment and torture of political opponents and urgently, thoroughly and transparently investigate the use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrators. Anyone found responsible for these violations must be brought to justice,” Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes said in December.

In a related development, reports and images have emerged in Uganda confirming Christopher Aine, an aide to presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi has died in mysterious circumstances. Mr. Aine went missing last month but family members and Mbabazi campaign team have been saying the now deceased was being held in police “torture chambers” in Kireka, near the capital Kampala. Mbabazi’s campaign is yet to comment on the aide’s suspicious death.