Uganda: shocking violence against protesters requires urgent attention

JOHANNESBURG: Shocking scenes have emerged from Uganda where police and the military have used live ammunition and extreme violence to disperse protestors demanding the release of detained members of parliament and activists following days of political unrest in further signs of growing political intolerance against dissenting voices.

Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, condemns this use of lethal violence used by security forces and calls on the East African Community to urgently meet and send communication to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to immediately ensure the release of arrested political and human rights activists.   

Said Teldah Mawarire, CIVICUS Campaigns and Advocacy Officer: “The use of live ammunition to disperse protests is unacceptable under any circumstances and must be condemned by regional leaders. Security forces must cease this action immediately.”

“It goes against the tenets of open and free political participation which Uganda subscribes to as a democracy,”’ said Mawarire.

Following a by-election in Arua Municipality on 15 August 2018, violence erupted resulting in the police shooting and killing Yasin Kawuma, the driver of popular member of parliament Robert Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine. Kyagulanyi and other activists have been held incommunicado and not allowed access to legal representation or visits from family members. Other reports suggest the detainees have been severely tortured and denied access to medical treatment. Another detained member of parliament Francis Zaake was dumped in Rubaga hospital in an unconscious state.

Days after the poll, there were also several arrests of protestors in different parts of the country including Kamwokya and the capital Kampala. Protestors also gathered at the Kenya border in Busia registering displeasure at the recent detentions and demanding the release of Kyagulanyi and other activists. In all cases, the authorities responded either with live ammunition, teargas and assaults on protestors.

Journalists have also not been spared by police brutality. In Arua, journalists Hebert Zziwa and Ronald Muwanga were arrested while reporting live on the unrest. Both were assaulted and detained overnight before being charged with inciting violence and malicious damage to property. They have been released on bail. Journalists were also viciously assaulted by members of the uniformed forces during protests in Kampala on 20 August 2018.

“Impunity remains a cause for concern where perpetrators of incidents of political violence are rarely held to account. An immediate enquiry made up of eminent and independent individuals from the continent, must be established to investigate the torture and loss of life with a view of bringing those responsible to justice,” said Mawarire.

CIVICUS Monitor, an online tool that tracks threats to civil society in all countries, rates the space for civil society in Uganda as “repressed”. Under this rating, civil society and citizens do not fully enjoy their freedoms and those engaging in protest are targeted by the state authorities through arrests, use of live ammunition and arrests.

CIVICUS expresses solidarity with Ugandans demanding the respect of fundamental freedoms and calls on the East African Community and the African Union to urge President Museveni to immediately stop using violence against his citizens, release all those in detention and respect the rule of law.

ENDS.

For more information, please contact:

Teldah Mawarire

David Kode