Nov. 23, 2020 (GIN) – Elections are a deadly game in Uganda. That was the message issued twice by Security Minister General Elly Tumwine as political rallies heat up and a national election scheduled for January 14 draws near.
“Police have a right to shoot you and kill you if you reach a certain level of violence”, Gen. Tumwine declared. “Can I repeat? Police have a right to shoot you and you die for nothing…. do it at your own risk.”
Similar thoughts emanated from Uganda government spokesman Don Wanyama who told the BBC that officers could not “just fold their arms and allow anarchy to happen”.
Last week, police confirmed that 28 people died during protests on Wednesday and Thursday by supporters of parliamentarian and opposition candidate Robert Kyagulanyi (known by his theatrical name Bobi Wine), but a police pathologist and the head of police health services told AP media that 37 bodies were recovered by Thursday morning.
Among the dead was retired Makerere University professor John Kittobbe who happened to be in Kampala, an area rocked by protests, to take care of other business.
This is the country’s worst unrest in a decade, and more is expected ahead of the election on Jan. 14, 2021. Over 17.6 million Ugandans are expected to cast ballots at more than 34,000 polling places.
On Friday, Uganda’s opposition presidential candidate, Bobi Wine, arrested for alleged violation of COVID-19 social distancing laws, was defiant after being released on bail following violent clashes between security forces and his supporters.
“Gen. Museveni is ready to kill thousands to keep in power like he did on the way in,” he was quoted to say. “The hunger for freedom is sweeping over Uganda. He may kill us, but he will NOT stop the people’s yearning for freedom.”
So far, 10 aspirants plus President Yoweri Museveni are vying for the top job. Others include former army commander Gen. Mugisha Muntu and former Security Minister General Henry Tumukunde.
One presidential candidate, Patrick Amuriat, was arrested at the headquarters of his Forum for Democratic Change party.
Meanwhile, as the number of election-related fatalities continues to rise, some are questioning whether the African Union has done enough to end armed violence. This year, in a campaign called “Silencing the Guns”, the AU pledged to reach out to youths to discourage them from taking up arms.