Did huge crowds pulled by Bobi Wine for candidate Wadri scare Museveni?
Several Ugandan Members of Parliament who were detained Monday by the military bore signs of having been “severely beaten” while in military custody when they were brought to the police station in the city of Gulu, according to witness accounts.
There has been no comment by the regime about the alleged beatings of the elected leaders.
The lawmakers and other opposition leaders including a Parliamentary candidate who was expected to defeat one fielded by dictator Yoweri Museveni’s party were arrested in the city of Arua following an incident where presidential guards shot and killed Yasin Kawuma, a driver of one of the MPs.
Critics contend the incident that included firing teargas and live bullets into crowds supporting the opposition was ordered by Gen. Museveni when he concluded his National Resistance Movement (NRM) candidate, Nusura Tiperu, would lose to Kasiano Wadri, a candidate backed by the opposition.
Museveni himself was in Arua on Monday to campaign for Tiperu.
Wadri was endorsed by Robert Kyagulanyi, a charismatic young Member of Parliament and musical star who has caused a seismic shift in Uganda’s politics in the last year. In his first race for office in July 2017, Kyagulanyi, a.k.a. Bobi Wine, crushed the candidate of Museveni’s NRM, winning 80% of the vote.
He has since had a Midas political touch and several candidates Kyagulanyi endorsed have won.
Judging by the huge crowds Wadri drew to his rally when Kyagulanyi and other opposition MPs traveled to Arua and endorsed him, observers saw another possible crushing defeat for Museveni’s candidate.
Monday evening, Kyagulanyi’s driver Kawuma was shot dead by Museveni’s presidential guards. Kyagulanyi tweeted a photograph of his driver’s body slumped on the front seat with the right side of his upper torso seemingly soaked in blood. Kyagulanyi tweeted: “Police has shot my driver dead thinking they’ve shot at me. My hotel is now coddoned [cordoned] off by police and SFC.”
Gen. Museveni was later ridiculed by Ugandans on social media when his spokesperson, to prove they had indeed been “attacked,” tweeted a photo of what he claims was a presidential vehicle whose windows had been smashed out by stone-throwing Wadri supporters, allegedly incited by the opposition MPs, to attack the dictator’s motorcade. Social media skeptics questioned how the bulletproof windows of a vehicle in the dictator’s motorcade could have been smashed with mere stones.
Critics believe Museveni panicked when he saw the huge crowd Wadri drew after being endorsed by Kyagulanyi and the other MPs and he pulled a plan-B. He had his guards engineer the incident and ensuing chaos. A defeat for Tiperu would be even more disastrous for Museveni himself, who had traveled to Arua to campaign for his candidate.
The Ugandan Police later issued a statement, claiming that on Monday at 6:30 PM, “supporters of candidate Kasiano Wadri with imported support groups led by Members of Parliament Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi, Francis Zaake, Paul Mwiru, Gerald Karuhanga and former MP Michael Mabikke obstructed and violently attacked the presidential motorcade” and that “one of the vehicles bearing the presidential coat of arms had its wind screen smashed.”
The press statement also claimed that earlier, at 4PM, two vehicles, including Kyagulanyi’s, had “obstructed” Museveni’s motorcade.
The statement did not explain why action was not taken at 4PM when Kyagulanyi’s car had allegedly blocked the dictator’s.
The statement went on to say several “suspects” were arrested to “help in the ongoing investigations” and included the names of: Kasiano Wadri, the opposition candidate who had been endorsed by Kyagulanyi and the other MPs; Paul Mwiru; Gerald Karuhanga; Kyagulanyi himself; and former MP Michael Mabikke.
The police statement signed by a public relations officer named Emilian Kayima, went on, in macabre fashion, to urge voters “to come out and exercise their constitutional and democratic rights to freely cast their votes for their proffered [presumably meant to say preferred] candidates…” even though Wadri, the candidate many expected to win, and whom the opposition MPs endorsed, remain locked up.
Critics contend it would be ironic justice if Wadri defeats Museveni’s candidate Tiperu from behind bars; the dictator could still burden him with trumped up criminal charges.
The vote is on Wednesday, August 15.
On Tuesday, witnesses said they spotted several of the detained Members of Parliament together with journalists who had been arrested, in Gulu, 155 miles from Arua. The lawmakers were tied with ropes and brought in police pickups, escorted by the army, from Arua to Gulu, witnesses said. All the Members of Parliament had physical signs of beatings, with swollen faces and limbs, according to the witnesses. One room in the police station was turned into a makeshift dispensary where some treatment was administered to the MPs.
A man who identified himself as a driver to the journalists who had been detained complained of difficulty in breathing and was being treated intravenously. The journalists were later released on bail and also face incitement charges. The army secured the outer perimeter of the Central Police Station, according to witnesses.
Seen by witnesses at Central Police Station in Gulu on were: Paul Mwiru (Jinja Municipality); Gerald Karuhanga (Ntumgamo Municipality); and, the former MP, Michael Mabikke.
It’s believed Kyagulanyi was also transported to Gulu by the military but he was not seen at the police station. It’s unclear if he too had been beaten. Earlier, his wife in a statement delivered through friends said she too was in the dark about his whereabouts. (Earlier reports claimed he had been airlifted to Bombo military barracks but later reports placed him in the hospital in Gulu army barracks).
The Parliamentary seat became vacant when Ibrahim Abiriga, an NRM MP, was gunned down on June 8 in his car in the streets of Kampala. Ironically, he was killed in a manner similar to Kawuma’s shooting.
Abiriga’s bullet riddled body –together with his brother’s, who also acted as a bodyguard– was slumped in the seat of his car.
Andrew Kaweesi, a top police official, was similarly gunned down in his car last year.