Uganda import teargas trucks ahead of poll

Monday January 17 2011

By TABU BUTAGIRA NATION Correspondent

The Uganda Police on Monday imported more than a dozen new tear-gas vehicles, water cannons and pepper sprayers for crowd control.

The high-tech, anti-riot gears are among a consignment of 50-plus automobiles, including troop carriers and buses, supplied by a Tianjin city-based Chinese firm.

They were shipped through Dar es Salaam, and according to one transporter, the fleet left the southern Mutukala border post with Tanzania at around one am on Saturday night, arriving in Kampala between 2pm and3pm.

Curious onlookers gathered by the roadsides, some discussing among themselves hush-hush, as the convoy snaked through the afternoon traffic gridlock at Kireka, a city suburb.

The teargas trucks in blue and red hues, boldly marked Uganda Police, were ferried aboard Tanzanian-registered trailers that by 4pm had all been parked at Naguru police barracks, east of Kampala.

Mr Godfrey Bangirana, the Police director for logistics and engineering, declined to speak on details and cost of the consignment.

This reporter visited Naguru police barracks and counted at least sixteen teargas vehicles/water cannons alongside three buses, two fork lifters, more than a dozen lorries, three fire tenders and four water tankers.

It was unclear if more of the logistical supplies were still on the way.

Shadow Internal Affairs Minister, Mr Hussein Kyanjo, said on Monday he suspects the Police have imported the anti-riot gadgets to terrorise opposition supporters during the February 18 vote.

He said: “Probably the police are preparing for what they are sure will happen most likely from the government side … they are ready for repression.”

President Museveni, he said, could have read the signs of possible mass uprising if he were defeated in next month’s ballot but chose to cling to power by force as Mr Laurent Gbagbo has done in Ivory Coast.

“The police are not acting out of the blue and the timing raises suspicion,” Mr Kyanjo, also MP for Makindye West constituency, said by telephone.

Ms Mary Karooro-Okurut, spokesperson for the ruling NRM party whose presidential flag bearer is Mr Museveni, last night described MP Kyanjo’s allegations.