Two killed as food riots rock Kampala

Friday April 29 2011

ISAAC KAASAMANI | Monitor Police drive through a fire in Kampala during the riots on April 29, 2011.

ISAAC KAASAMANI | Monitor Police drive through a fire in Kampala during the riots on April 29, 2011.  

By Monitor Team and AFP

Two people died on Friday in riots that engulfed Kampala and its suburbs as well as five other towns, from Entebbe to Mbale.

First Son Lt Col Kainerugaba Muhoozi, commander of the elite Special Forces Group, took charge in the downtown Kisekka market from where soldiers drove out journalists.

Police said 123 people had been injured by early afternoon.

They identified one of the dead as Mr Samuel Mufumbira, a vendor at the city’s St Balikuddembe (Owino) Market. He was shot in the head.

A two-and-half-year-old girl, Patricia Namugenyi, was in critical condition at Mulago Hospital after reportedly being shot in the stomach. Her mother Annet Nabukenya, a Namasuba resident, wailed uncontrollably.

Police took away the body of a man shot dead in Namasuba-Kasubi area, Uganda Red Cross officials said.

Witnesses say three bodies of gunshot victims were in the morning taken to Mulago but hospital spokesman Dan Kimosho said he could not give any figure because “there are so many people being brought in”.

In Jinja town, military police roughed up Daily Monitor journalist Denis Edema; confiscated his digital camera and deleted pictures of their confrontation with protesters on Kirinya Road until UPDF spokesman, Lt Col Felix Kulayigye, intervened.

Elsewhere, photographers whom some security operatives accused of taking only “bad pictures” found themselves on the receiving end of police beatings.

Ambulances with sirens blaring arrived at the hospital at intervals of three minutes, bringing  the injured, among them two policemen with gunshot wounds and a soldier.

In Mbale, a government car was torched in a dramatic confrontation where anti-riot police momentarily fled after they ran out of tear gas in the face of advancing protesters who regrouped after being flushed out earlier. 

Traffic on Jinja and Gulu highways was temporarily interrupted. People arriving for work or business in affected towns fled back home and automatic weapons fire rang out as the tense situation degenerated into violence.

Military police commandeered armoured vehicles to fight back the protestors who pelted them with stones. The heavily-guarded convoy of Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Aronda Nyakairima, was stoned at Najjanankumbi on Entebbe Road but spokesman Kulayigye said the army commander was not in his official vehicle at the time.

“The situation required us to come in to support internal security organs to restore stability and order,” the UPDF spokesman said.

Plumes of black smoke filled the city skies and the acrid smell of tear gas sent residents scampering for fresh water to clean their eyes.

Internal Affairs Minister Kirunda Kivejinja was yet to address a press conference at the government-owned Media Centre to speak about the day’s mayhem believed to have been sparked by the violent and humiliating arrest of opposition leader, Kizza Besigye.

Police in Mbale had arrested 18 suspected rioters.

On Thursday, opposition leader Kizza Besigye was arrested by police who smashed his car windows with guns and hammers before bundling him into the back of pick-up truck.

Besigye, who lost to President Yoweri Museveni for the third time in February elections he charged were rigged, had only just been released from a week in custody.

Besigye and other opposition leaders earlier in April started walking to work twice a week as a symbolic protest against rising fuel costs but the demonstrations have met with a tough response from the police.

According to the Ugandan Red Cross, five people have died nationwide this month in violence.

Food and fuel prices have soared in the eastern African country recently, with Museveni blaming inflation on meteorological and global economic factors, but protesters see it as a result of bad governance.

At the same time, President Yoweri Museveni is expected in Nairobi on Saturday for an official visit. Besigye was blocked from visiting Kenya to seek treatment.