UGANDA: When Kiboko squad and Police shamed the nation

By Omar Kalinge-Nnyago

Wednesday 9th June 2010. I am typing this column with one hand – the left hand. The right one has been badly bruised from merciless beating by a combination of Uganda Police under the command of Inspector Sorowen and Kiboko squad. I must confess that I obeyed the natural law. When I was attacked, I defended myself. I am sure one of my attackers is hurting a little bit. Kiboko squad is the ruling party's stick wielding militia, composed of hooligans trained to beat up political enemies.

On Monday I received and accepted the invitation from an old friend of mine, of the recently established National Alliance for a Free and Fair Election, NAFFE. I would be speaking along with politicians, civil society activists, religious leaders and other public intellectuals.

When we arrived at the venue, it had been cordoned off. Jeema's Basalirwa and FDC's Besigye managed to break into the square and spoke to the press. Everyone thought at that point that it was over. They were wrong. A quick call by the organizers changed all that. The venue had tactfully shifted to Clock tower grounds. Within minutes the clock tower ground had more riot police and Kiboko squad than passers by.

The convenor NAFFE, Margaret Wokuri was there again flanked by the IPC leaders. There was a standoff. Then the brutal beating started. It was too late. A journalist's camera was intentionally broken by a recognizable policeman. His name sounded like Mundu or something. I was brutally beaten by police and Kiboko squad. By behaving like amateurs, the police had managed to create two flash points in the city.

Pretending to negotiate, Wokuri and the IPC leaders bought some time as another venue was being arranged a few hundred metres ahead, in Katwe market, where they later drove to. Pretty stretched, and visibly confused, it took a while for the police to arrive at Katwe. Action started. The Leaders addresses the market vendors and residents. When the police finally arrived, the show was over. A brief standoff followed but the message had been delivered. NAFFE wants a new and Independent Electoral Commission before the 2011 elections. Katwe residents seemed to agree with Wokuri and the IPC leaders. That was the third action of the day.

A negotiation between the area MP Hussein Kyanjo and angry people averted a catastrophe when a group of youths attempted to attack the police. He calmed them down to the relief of the clearly frightened police officers in riot gear that they were not sure would protect them. Katwe, you see is not any place in Kampala. It knows how to take care of certain things pretty well.

Activity now shifted to parliament. Wokuri, the IPC leaders and us drove to Parliament with the hope of convening at the parliamentary gardens for an organized press conference. We knew this time there wouldn't be a problem, since the leader of opposition, Prof. Latigo and MP Kyanjo were there, in the front. The MPs were blocked. The police again caused a fourth action to happen, at the entrance, not bad at all for the media.

So what started as a civil call in support of a free and fair election 2011, ended up to be a terrible human rights debacle that saw opposition leaders being beaten by private militia combined by the police.

Transitions are strange periods. I think some elements in the police and other security agencies really want to provoke the masses and create conditions of chaos for their personal benefit. Those that ordered the police to behave like they never completed police school were not clearly not doing it in defence of the government.

Margaret Wokuri, the NAFFE interim coordinator must be surprised by the results. How can one simple civic action result into four robust political activities in a period of under 3 hours!

On the front page of most newspapers on Wednesday were the juicy headlines of two prominent Buganda personalities, both former Prime Ministers of the Buganda Kingdom who had decided to join the political opposition ranks and endorsed the Inter Party Cooperation. If anyone had any doubts whether they were right or wrong, they should remember what they saw on TV on Wednesday night. Ugandans must claim their country back.

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