By Carolyn Abdenour
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa
KAMPALA, Uganda – On Friday, 1 September, the Ugandan police prohibited a rally to celebrate the overthrow of North African dictators organized by opponents of President Yoweri Museveni. Police spokesman Vincent Sekate stated “The purpose of the rally is likely to incite the public into violence.” However, Mathias Mpuga, leader of opposition Activists for Change, denies the police allegations.
On Wednesday, the security forces banned the opposition from holding the rally on the Clock Tower grounds in Kampala for security reasons. The police also heavily deployed their forces to the venue. Opposition political parties, government critics, and civil society groups were planned participants in the rally.
BBC reports Activists for Change called the rally to “celebrate people power in North Africa.” The organization also printed fliers to advertise the rally. The flier depicts crossed-out photos of ousted leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya adjacent to a photo of President Museveni as the next leader to fall.
Mr. Museveni has held office since 1986, but the opposition argues his reelection victory in February was fraudulent. Since February, Museveni’s opposition has organized several protests to challenge the rising cost of living in Uganda. In April, nine people died at a rally after security forces intervened. Officials also assaulted, arrested, and charged opposition leader Kizza Besigye during a protest, but they later dropped the charges. The police broke up these rallies with tear gas.
The protest organizers assert Uganda is ready for an uprising similar to those in North Africa. They warned police partisanship could move people towards violent insurrection rather than a peaceful demonstration. Mpuga said, “We want to do things the Tunisian or Egyptian way, but they are pushing us the Libyan way.” He added, “We have never had any intention to engage in activism that would endanger fellow activists as well as the work of other ordinary Ugandans not concerned with our protests.”
The police and the protest organizers failed to reach an agreement to hold the rally on Friday, and Mpuga commented the disagreement “is creating a lot of fear in the general public in Kampala because every time we have had standoffs with the police, we have had several people injured.” Voice of America reports some analysts suggest the opposition groups want to topple Uganda’s government, Mpuga asserts the rally does not intend to plunge the country into chaos.
On Friday, Mpuga announced “we are shifting the rally from today to Friday next week at the same time and same venue.”
For further information, please see:
The Times – Ugandan opposition delays solidarity rally – 2 Sept 11
BBC – Ugandan police ban ‘regime change’ rally – 1 Sept 11
International Business Times – Uganda Bans Rally Celebrating North African Revolts – 1 Sept 11
Voice of America – In Uganda, Planned Opposition Rally in Doubt – 1 Sept 11