By Reta Raymond
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
NEBBI, Uganda- Protests were staged on Wednesday, June 1 during the swearing in of newly elected district chairperson Robert Okumu of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) in Nebbi, northwest of Kampala. Protesters in support of candidate Estom William Alenyo lit tires to block the Nebbi-Kampala road to interfere with the procession. Police dispelled crowds using tear gas and live ammunition, and the protesters fought back using stones. Protesters complain that Okumu’s swearing in is premature because of an unresolved election petition of the recount results in the High Court. A protester told New Vision that “we cannot allow this, Okumu wants to use illegal means to lead us when he is not our choice.” Eighteen protesters were arrested and have been remanded to prison after having been denied bail. Two were injured during the protest.
Estom William Alenyo (Ind) was declared the winner of the election earlier this year, but after Okumu sued Alenyo and the Electoral Commission, a recount was ordered and Okumu was declared the winner on May 30.
This protest is the most recent in a string of police brutality incidents related to civil unrest in Uganda since April. In the capital city of Kampala, the activist group, Activists for Change (A4C), organized the “Walk to Work” campaign. Protesters walked from their homes to their offices to call attention to the high fuel and commodity prices. Security forces used tear gas, live ammunition and rubber bullets to disperse crowds of protesters.
One of the prominent faces of A4C’s campaign, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) president Dr. Kizza Besigye, was arrested numerous times, was shot in the hand, and tear gassed at point blank,which blinded him temporarily. Besigye was confined to his home for most of May, except to leave the country to receive medical treatment for his injuries. He told reporters “I have no idea what the conditions of my house arrest are… they didn’t say for how long.” The force’s use of live ammunition and other measures were used against bystanders and protesters alike, injuring three hundred and killing at least nine, including two children.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for a probe into human rights violations which took place during the Walk to Work campaign, citing nine indiscriminate killings and other gross violations. Additionally, on Wednesday the East African Law Society (EALS) filed a lawsuit against Uganda in the East African Court (EAC) of Justice in Tanzania for the human rights violations. Vice President of the EALS, Mr. Aggrey Mwamu, told reporters that “as the atrocities were committed in Uganda, neither the EAC secretary general nor any of the five members of the Community raised concern. They all kept quiet… this is against the EAC Treaty.”
For more information, please see;
Daily Monitor – Live Bullets, Teargas as police battle Nebbi protesters – 2 June, 2011
The New Vision – Nebbi LC5 sworn in amidst demo – 2 June 2011
All Africa – Uganda: Nebbi Court Remands 18 Youth Over Protest – 3 June 2011
BBC – Uganda’s Kizza Besigye ‘put under house arrest’ – 19 May 2011
Human Rights Watch – Uganda: Launch Independent Inquiry into Killings – 8 May 2011