Talk about an abuse of power!
Ugandan police fired teargas and water cannon to disperse opposition supporters who had gathered in a Kampala suburb on Wednesday to mourn people killed during demonstrations earlier this year.
Uganda, keen to attract foreign investors to turn the country into a major oil producer, was rocked by widespread anti-government protests in April and May that were sparked by rising food and fuel prices and a weakening currency.
At least nine people were killed in the government’s clampdown and opposition leader Kizza Besigye was arrested and badly beaten by security agents.
Wednesday’s clash followed a similar incident last week when police dispersed a much larger crowd which had gathered to hear Besigye’s renewed calls for protests, after inflation climbed to an 18-year high in July.
Police dispersed the crowd of several hundred people. The crowd attempted to reassemble and some speakers managed to address protesters for a short while before being tear gassed again.
“We didn’t allow the crowd to grow big because we wanted to prevent the worst from happening … we were not opposed to the rally but they refused to listen to us on the venue where they should stage it,” said Ibn Senkumbi, a police spokesman at the scene.
How much trouble were they really going to get out of this suited and booted crowd though?
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, in power for more than two decades, has vowed to crush the Besigye-led protests, blaming the rising food and fuel prices on drought and global increases in crude oil prices.
He won February elections that Besigye and other opposition leaders said were rigged, but Museveni accuses the opposition of being desperate for power.
Anne Mugisha, deputy foreign secretary for the Forum for Democratic Change, the largest opposition party, criticized the heavy-handedness of police, saying they were intent on “disrupting and criminalizing” the event.
“The issue wasn’t really a disagreement about the venue. Police deployed early and turned Kireka town into a battlefield. They were determined to fight and as usual they found an excuse to brutalize peaceful activists but we’re not deterred a bit,” she told Reuters.
But we’re sitting over here not voting, much less protesting governmental bulls***.