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Anti-dictatorship demo in Uganda crushed

Virunga Mountains

Riot police yesterday fired tear gas and water canons to disperse hundreds of demonstrators protesting against the move to lift presidential term limits.

The demonstration was organised by the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). It also included members of the Democratic Party, Uganda People’s Congress, JEEMA, The Free Movement and the Conservative Party.

Police deployed heavily at all the spots where the demonstrators were expected to gather or pass.

Work along Kampala Road and Parliament Avenue was interrupted for the entire morning as police battled the demonstrators.

The demonstration was meant to coincide with the first vote in Parliament on the proposal to remove term limits, a move that is widely believed will pave the way for President Yoweri Museveni to stand for re-election in 2006.
Mr Museveni’s last constitutional term expires next year.

The demonstration was planned to start from the Constitution Square at 10:00 pm.
However, police deployed more than 20 officials at the venue who confiscated the demonstrators’ placards and arrested two men from the Uganda Freedom Party (UFP).

Police claimed that the organisers of the demonstration had not informed them in advance. “The order is immediate; there is no demonstration, they should go away,” a police officer, who declined to be named, told Daily Monitor as the demonstrators were dispersed.
Kampala Regional Police Commander, Mr Oyo Nyeko, defended the police action.

“The opposition wrote to the Inspector General of Police but he wrote back calling off the demonstration,” Oyo told journalists at his office. “Parliament has to be informed 48 hours while the police have to be informed 72 hours before the demonstration can take place,” he added.

The demonstrators shouted anti-third term slogans and carried several placards denouncing the no-term limits proponents. Some of them read, “253 MPs cannot decide for 24 million Ugandans. Please say no to third term;” “MPs, don’t murder our constitution, yours peasants;” “US and the donor community, come and save us;” “Pearl of Africa is Pearl of Mafia;” and “What shall we tell the children in the north born in camps?”

Realising that they had been outnumbered, the demonstrators, mostly male youths, retreated to Crest House along Station Road singing anti-third term songs.

From there the procession comprising boda boda riders and seven mini buses moved along Nkrumah Road, to Owino, Ben Kiwanuka Street, past CPS, Speke Road before joining Kampala Road.

Battle begins
What had progressed as a peaceful march suddenly became violent when police deployed five pick-up truckloads of riot police and a spray truck at the junction of Kampala Road and Parliament Avenue. The demonstrators now numbering over 100 were sprayed with peppered water. A pick-up truck carrying some of the demonstrators was abandoned in the main road.

But the protestors did not take the punishment lying down. They threw stones at the police.
The crowd soon melted, only to re-emerge in front of Parliament.

But the police were there too. One parked car’s windshield was left shattered after a police rubber bullet blasted through it. Workers at Stanbic Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Nile Bank and other nearby offices were seen inhaling through their handkerchiefs as the area around Parliament Avenue was filled with tear gas.
The scuffle also attracted several MPs from Parliament where business too came to a brief halt.

As time went by, the crowd grew smaller and eventually disappeared by 2:00 pm.
Conspicuously, apart from the FDC’s Beti Kamya and James Musinguzi, there were no other opposition leaders in sight.

Reposted from Monitor Media

Free Uganda


  • Opposition, Movt in kisanja battle

    The Parliamentary precincts yesterday morning were a chaotic scene as police fought running battles with demonstrators opposed to the lifting of presidential term limits.

    The demonstrators marching under the banner of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change were carrying placards and shouting anti-third term slogans.

    FDC demonstrators
    Led by FDC Party Envoy Beti Kamya, the demonstrators stormed the Southern Gate but were dispersed by police tear gas. By afternoon, the battle had moved to the House as Movement MPs braced for a showdown on the vote to lift term limits at the Second Stage of the Bill.

    Members of the public who had gone to Parliament in big numbers struggled for seats in the House.
    There was thorough screening for dangerous weapons. Those who turned up to take seats in the gallery were asked to remove their shoes to ascertain whether they carried no dangerous objects.

    A day before, the media was awash with reports that there was an assassination plot against pro-third term MPs. More policemen were called in to beef security around Parliament. 2:30pm was the moment of truth, as the Speaker of Parliament Edward Ssekandi took his seat.

    Political battle

    The House was then turned into a political battle area as MPs struggled for the seats in the House.
    Army MPs Lt. Gen. David Tinyefuza, Lt Gen. Elly Tumwine, Lt. Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, Col. Noble Mayombo and Lt. Col. Phinehas Katirima turned up in full military fatigue.

    Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Maj. Roland Kakooza Mutale, and FDC Chief Mobiliser Maj.Gen Mugisha Muntu turned up in the public gallery for the historic debate.

    There were murmurs in the public gallery as the debate kicked off. Inside Parliament the famous Movement “yellow girls” were clad in yellow attire.

    They included Hope Mwesigye (state for Parliamentary Affairs) Hanifa Kawoya (Ssembabule), Christine Tubo (Kotido), Beatrice Rwakimari (Ntungamo), Wilfred Masiko (Rukungiri), Jessica Eriyo (Adjumani) and Mary Karooro Okurut (Bushenyi).

    Those opposed to term limits looked undeterred in their quest to write their names in historical records.

    Ministers John Nasasira and Mwesigye kept tabs on Movement MPs as debate progressed. The Ministers had a list of the Movement MPs and monitored what they were debating.

    After a brief debate, Ssekandi put the question of a motion to commit the Bill to the committtee stage.
    What predictably was an accomplished deal however had a few surprises.

    Ibanda North MP, Capt. Guma Gumisiriza, hitherto a third term critic voted in favour of lifting term limits and Bukomansimbi MP and son to DP founder Benedicto Kiwanuka,Kagimu Kiwanuka, also supported lifting term limits. Kiwanuka is a staunch DP supporter.

    In the end, 232 MPs voted for the motion, while 50 opposed it.
    The Movement MPs were left chest thumping and descended upon the parliamentary canteen to guzzle bottles of beer and wine. As opposition MPs announced chaos and civil strife in case terms limits were lifted, a Cabinet minister warned that the government was awake.

    The Minister for Water, Lands and Environment, Col Kahinda Otafiire, while contributing to the Constitution Amendment Bill said nobody has the monopoly of violence.

    “Let me give those who think they can incite violence one warning, never trouble trouble before trouble troubles you. None of us has a monopoly of violence,” Otafiire said.

    “Why make war because we are lifting terms. Bullets don’t choose. I have experience and I wouldn’t want other people to go through what I went through while we were in the bush,” Otafiire said. Otafiire advised that a war could be avoided.

    He said any disagreements could be sorted out peacefully without fighting. Otafiire who said he opposed term limits in the Constituency Assembly told MPs that he lost because they were the minority.
    He said they accepted defeat because they lost. “But you never know minority views can become the majority views in future”.

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