Gunshots were fired in several parts of Uganda Thursday. In many instances, people screamed as those around them were shot. For others, there were some tense moments as they sought to get away from the violence in the capital, Kampala.
Police in Uganda say 16 people have been killed and 45 others injured in protests that followed the arrest of opposition presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine. Wine's party says police have not allowed anyone to see him in custody. Other opposition candidates say they are halting their campaigns until Wine is released.
Roads within the city center have been closed as security personnel patrol the streets and shoot at civilians who are out demonstrating.
The information ministry released a statement, praising President Yoweri Museveni for controlling crowds at rallies at it called on citizens to identify troublemakers and turn them in to police.
Patrick Onyango, the Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson, says their security forces handled violent demonstrators who he said had plans to set fires in Kampala after the arrest of Wine.
He said police acted to stop protesters he alleged were pelting officers with stones and looting or damaging properties.
“The operation of yesterday and today, we have registered now, 16 deaths. We have also made arrests, since yesterday and today; the total is 350,” he said.
Onyango said those arrested will be charged with various offenses that include participating in unlawful demonstrations, inciting violence, assault, malicious damage and robbery.
The suspects are expected to be produced in court either Friday or next Monday.
Joel Ssenyonyi, the spokesperson for Wine’s National Unity Platform party, said the party has still been denied access to Wine, who is being held in Nalufenya prison in eastern Uganda’s Jinja district.
“They have denied him access to his lawyers; they have denied him access to the doctors. They denied access to family and all of that. So, we don’t know the condition in which he’s in, which is very worrying - because this Nalufenya here, has for a long time been notorious for killing people, for maiming people, poisoning people; they inject them with stuff and so on,” Ssenyonyi said.
Most of the other candidates challenging incumbent President Museveni suspended their campaigns Wednesday in support of Wine and another candidate who was arrested, Patrick Amuriat Oboi of the Forum for Democratic Change.
The candidate for the Alliance for National Transformation, retired General Mugisha Muntu, said the election cannot go forward under the current circumstances.
“Because it doesn’t make sense for there to be an election and then you have fully nominated presidential candidates being arrested. They will use methods of humiliating candidates to a point where they hope that the population can say this person whom we are banking on is not a solution to the challenges that we face,” Muntu said.
As of late Thursday, the sounds of protests and gunfire could still be heard in Kampala.
Ten of the presidential candidates plan to meet Friday to discuss how to proceed. The election is expected to take place early in 2021.