As the public prepares for Easter, it will be wrong for the opposition to stage 'walk to work on Good Thursday.' Whether walk to work has achieved the targeted objective (s), it is very important to think about how it impacts on the people who are already impoverished. The opposition is aware of the ills inflicted on the innocent people, and we are yet to see how they come in to help the hundreds so far affected. I am of the opinion that the opposition is trying to whip a non responding opponent and i the circumstances, the innocent people are suffering the more.
William Kituuka Kiwanuka
A Ugandan protester reaches down to pick up a tear gas grenade that police fired at a crowd in Kireka, a Kampala suburb, on April 18, 2011, during demonstrations that broke out after opposition leader Kizza Besigye was arrested in the morning following an attempt to take part in a "walk to work" protest against soaring fuel prices. Photo/AFP
Posted Wednesday, April 20 2011 at 12:00
Uganda's failure to tackle popular concerns over rising living costs could see the country rocked by further protests, but the chances of a North African-style revolt remain slim, analysts say.
Four people have died over the past week, according to the Ugandan Red Cross, after opposition demonstrations over rising costs prompted a harsh crackdown by security forces and sparked rioting across the country.
On Monday opposition leader Kizza Besigye vowed further protests after he was arrested for the second time in a week as he attempted to walk to work in Kampala.
He was charged with inciting violence and released on bail.
The arrest of Besigye and around 20 other prominent opposition figures on Monday set off running battles between protesters and the security forces, as the police and army fired tear gas to disperse stone-throwing protesters on the outskirts of Kampala.
"The fact that the opposition is focusing on the issue of prices, which impacts everybody's livelihood, means they have struck a chord with the population," Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a political scientist at Kampala's Makerere University, told AFP.
Annual inflation on food rose to almost 30 percent in March, while fuel price inflation rose to over 10 percent, according the Consumer Price Index.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has vowed to crush the protests, dismissing the opposition demonstrations as "idiotic".
The government blames factors beyond its control, such as high international oil prices and recent droughts, for the price rises.
But Golooba-Mutebi said the state's brutal reaction to protests has only served to draw attention to the issue and warned unrest could escalate unless the government focused on dealing with the price hikes rather than just cracking down on the opposition.
"Simply responding to the protests with violence won't solve the issue," Golooba-Mutebi said.
"If they instead focus on dealing with the problem then that should render the protests irrelevant," he said, citing recent reductions in fuel tax in neighbouring Kenya as an innovative way of defusing public ire.
Museveni comfortably beat Besigye in nationwide elections in February and while opposition calls for protests over alleged vote-rigging failed to catch on, analysts said the government was caught "flat-footed" by the current food price demonstrations ahead of an expected cabinet reshuffle next month.
"The response by the government has been a total PR failure," Levi Ochieng, a Kampala-based, independent political analysis, told AFP.
Although the opposition were clearly politicising the price rise issue, Ochieng said the government had failed to reassure the public that they are dealing with the issue amid allegations of unnecessary state spending, including the recent purchase of two fighter jets and plans to spend over a million dollars on Museveni’s inauguration ceremony in May.
WALK TO WORK CAMPAIGN DAY 3
Dr. Olara Otunnu aboard a police vehicle to Jinja Road Police station. PHOTO BY JOSEPH KIGGUNDU
Posted Monday, April 18 2011 at 11:50
18:02 EAT: There was drama at City Hall Court in Kampala after the Democratic Party president General Norbert Mao and six others voluntarily refused to apply for bail and they were accordingly remanded to Luzira prison till May 2.
15:20 EAT: For the second time in two weeks, Dr Kizza Besigye was granted bail by a Kasanagti court at slightly after 3.20 p.m. He was charged with inciting violence and rioting after proclamation. Kasangati court’s principal grade one magistrate James Ereemye overruled the State’s opposition to the bail application which was made on the ground that the accused had purportedly contravened the bail conditions granted by the same court last week. Mr Ereemye ruled that since Dr Besigye denied the allegations in the first instance, the opposition to his bail application cannot stand.
Military police have taken over the Gayaza-Kasangati road, chasing away whoever is by the wayside. Upon being bailed, the opposition leader told journalists that he will again set out on Thursday as the walk-to-work campaign enters its third week.
13:58 EAT: Police in Jinja town has had to put out several small fires reportedly started by stranded early morning crowds that were demanding for alternative means of transportation to their workplaces. The fires were lit using old car tires in Namulesa and Mafubira trading centers.Local residents claim they set fire to provoke police to intervene and provide them with transport to Jinja town after waiting for hours in vain. Sources at Jinja Taxi Park told our reporter on condition of anonymity that the drivers of Kamuli stage had convened a special secrete meeting and vowed to show their solidarity to the Walk to Work protest by parking all their vehicles today.
Meanwhile In Bugembe town council, rowdy Boda boda cyclists joined by other members of the public had blocked Jinja- Iganga Highway with logs and stones before Police came on the scene. The Anti-riot Police pelted them with teargas canisters and removed the blockade.
11:50 EAT: Military and ordinary police are fighting running battles with Dr Kizza Besigye’s supporters in Kasangati where the Forum for Democratic Change leader has been detained. Journalists are encamped at Kasangati Police Post, afraid of moving out to cover the running battles after one military officer told them that “shooting a journalist by mistake is not a crime,” according to our reporter on the scene, Mr Gerald Bareebe. Mr Bareebe also reports that early indications from police sources in Kasangati are that the police are preparing to prefer charges unrelated to today’s walk-to-work campaign against Dr Besigye.
11:25 EAT: Normalcy is returning to Kireka, a Kampala suburb, after a tense morning that saw several skirmishes between the Police and residents of Kireka. Our reporter in Kireka indicates that the situation became tense after news trickled in of the arrest of Kyadondo North MP elect Ssemujju Nganda. Police and Military Police were immediately depolyed as groups of youth started throwing stones and burning car tyres in the middle of roads. Traffic into Kampala city centre was heavily disrupted and diverted to snake its way behind Namboole Stadium. However our reporter indicates that a state of calm is returning to Kireka as the Police successfull clears debris from the roads. One person , Edwin Mugisha who is a mechanic has been arrested.
11:15 EAT: Hoima District: A group of eight youth including former FDC Candidate for Hoima District Woman MP seat, Asinansi Nyakato and Dan Tumwesigye former FDC Hoima District LCV Candidate have been arrested in Hoima District while attempting to walk to the FDC offices in a show of solidarity with the Walk to Work demonstration. They were arrested at the Hoima hospital gate and are held at Hoima Police Station. There is heavy deployment of police in the area.
11:02 EAT: DP President Norbert Mao and several followers who were intending to take part in the walk to work demonstration have been arrested. Mao and his followers were arrested hardly 100 metres outside the gate of his home in Ntinda by a contingent of police in two trucks. Speaking to our reporter, Mao said that the police claimed that they had reinstated the cases against him for inciting violence, unlawful assembly and disobeying a lawful order by a police officer. He has been arrested with seven others.
10:30 EAT: Kibale District: Reports coming in indicate that FDC Chairman Kibale District Ayebare Kanyarutoke was arrested at 7:00am on his way to Kagadi town. Kanyarutoke was walking bare foot, he is currently held at Kagadi police station. There is heavy deployment of police in Kagadi town.
9:30 EAT: Jinja town this Monday morning is currently at a standstill as many taxi drivers participate in the walk to work demonstrations called by the Opposition parties in Uganda despite previous assurances by the Jinja tax operators Association chairman Hajji Kalid Muyingo they would not participate in the demonstrations. Many early morning workers have resorted to walking as taxi drivers have parked their vehicles by the roadside leaving many stranded.
By 8 o’clock jinja Tax Park was visibly empty of taxes and stages like Kampala stage, Mbiko stage had no vehicle to transport passengers. “I had not wished to walk to work but now that there are no vehicles, I will”, Kibenge Isaac said while waiting for a tax to go to Nytil textiles in Njeru Town council.
The taxi drivers' action came after about 50 boda boda cyclists initiated the walk to work demonstration rolling their motor bikes with full lights on in protest against the rising fuel prices. Their protest began at around 5am with the meeting point at Total refilling station in the junction of Main street and Clive road west. By 6 o’clock, security was already tight and the army was deployed in every corner of the town especially at the volatile Kirinya and spire road.The two streets are the strong holds of opposition FDC in Jinja town.
8:30 EAT: UPC President Olara Otuunu has been arrested at Game shopping center Nakawa at about 9:35am. He has been arrested with Chris Opoka and Badru Wegulo. Otunnu was arrested on the orders of Alphonse Mutabazi the OC Jinja Road Police station.
7:30 EAT: FDC president Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye has today morning been arrested 200 meters away from his home in Kasangati. Besigye who was determined to continue with the walk to work campaign over the rising cost of living in the country was arrested at 6:39am with three other supporters and has been taken to Kasangati Police Station. Tight security has been positioned around the station as a mass of Besigye supporters’ flock the station
Uganda’s ‘Walk To Work’ Protests Will Continue, says Activist
A Ugandan pressure group is vowing to defy President Museveni’s ban on protests against food and fuel price rises. They say they will continue their call to walk to work to protest deteriorating economic conditions, and to show solidarity with the poor.
Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni on Saturday warned he will not allow the protests, which began last week, to continue. According to Reuters, he said they would worsen the economic situation because businesses, fearing attacks on their vehicles, would be afraid to bring food and fuel into protesting urban areas. Museveni blames drought for the rising food prices and said international events had pushed up the price of oil needed to deliver goods.
“We were not waiting for President Museveni’s permission,” said Mathias Mpuuga, the Masaka Municipality member of parliament-elect and the coordinator for the pressure group, Activists for Change (A4C).
“It has never been part of our program to seek his permission and consent for us to protest,” he said.
Mr Mpuuga said Ugandans have a right to protest and “Ugandans have an obligation to demand of him [president Museveni] and his government to do what other governments do in times of crisis.”
He said he is not surprised by the president’s reaction. “I would have been surprised if his message was different,” he said, “but this is his usual intimidation trick.”
For the last so many years, he explained, “Uganda is a country of the law of the rulers and not the rule of law.”
Mpuuga said it’s the duty of all Ugandans to enforce the rule of law as government would not grant them freedoms unless they fight for them.
He said despite the police brutality last week on peaceful people walking to work, the ‘walk to work” campaign will continue.
“We will not do anything different. Tomorrow (Monday) we will walk to work but this time round the walk to work campaign will not be a preserve of the capital, Kampala, but will spread throughout the whole country.”
Mpuuga urged the president to address the concerns of the citizens instead of demonizing the opposition.
Prices have been rising after drought cut food output across Uganda, while higher global oil prices have increased transport costs, pushing up food prices further in urban areas.
The consumer price index jumped 4.1 percent in March from February, pushing the year-on-year inflation rate to 11.1 percent, the fifth straight rise.
Security forces on Thursday fired rubber bullets and teargas to disperse a crowd of more than 1,000 led by Dr Kiiza Besigye, Museveni's closest rival in February elections. Besigye was injured in the march to the center of Kampala after a rubber bullet struck his finger.
Protests were also reported in the town of Jinja in eastern Uganda, Masaka in south western Uganda, and Gulu to the north.
Museveni said protests will do nothing to reduce the cost of oil, and urged Ugandans to use fuel sparingly.