Religious leaders in Uganda have come out condemning the violence that has rocked different parts of the country, which started in Arua as the West Nile municipality prepared to elected a new MP on Monday last week.
One person was shot dead during the Arua violence; another was gunned down in Mityana during the weekend, whereas scores have been arrested.
There have also been claims of extreme torture of those in detention, including members of parliament, by the police and the military.
Addressing press on Monday while numerous riots were ongoing in downtown Kampala, religious leaders under the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU), condemned the violence and the excessive force used by authorities.
Sheikh Ramathan Mubajje the Council Chairman called for tolerance of dissenting political voices, reminding government that Ugandans have a right to electioneering.
“Electioneering is a constitutional right and the legal procedure is well stipulated that gowns the entire process,” Mubajje said.
“The elections are an attribute of democracy and it is important that people are granted their right to freely solicit votes for their candidates, and decide on who they want to lead them without intimidation or any other form of duress.”
“The fact that the recent by-elections led to loss of human lives and destruction of property; and the arrest and torture of people to deformity is a clear indicator that there is a lot of unvented anger that often bursts out whenever a simple difference in opinion comes up.”
President Yoweri Museveni in two separate statements on the Arua violence, placed the blame mostly on opposition leaders, who he accused of ferrying people from other parts of the country to Arua to cause mayhem.
“The biggest problem is political leaders like Kassiano Wadri and Bobi Wine forming, or allowing indisciplined groups to be formed under the cover of elections, groups that form illegal processions in built-up and heavily populated areas, carrying stones, up-rooting side walk pavers to use as missiles, to attack defenceless women, children and other civilians,” said the President.
“All this is aimed at intimidating the majority NRM voters from turning up to vote so that the minority can win. This is on top of importing voters from other areas to vote in Jinja East, Bugiri Municipality, Arua Municipality etc. The evidence is overwhelming and it will be produced in court.”
The religious leaders expressed concern that government continues to silence dissenting voices using extreme force.
“It is unfortunate that in a country, whose national motto is; “For God and My Country,” people with different political orientations cannot tolerate each other.”
“ We should all remember that violence begets violence and it is ultimately a lose-lose situation for all parties.
The clerics in the press address, asked government “whose major obligation is to protect people and their property to ensure that the MPs, their supporters and other persons arrested during the Arua electioneering are treated with dignity.
They also urged government to desist from the use of excessive force while controlling chaotic, situations especially during electioneering processes.
On the other hand IRCU condemned the reported attack on the Presidential convoy.
“We caution political leaders, campaign managers and the public to desist from acts of hooliganism and use of provocative and inflammatory statements or language during electoral campaigns.”