The Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) has come to defend its involvement in quelling yesterday’s riots which were sparked by the arrest of the National Unity Platform (NUP) Presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine).
Bobi Wine was arrested and detained overnight at Nalufenya Police detention centre in Jinja, before police charged him with negligent conduct likely to spread an infectious disease, obstruction and holding unauthorized assemblies.
As the riots intensified in Kampala, Wakiso, Mukono, Jinja and other areas, UPDF officers joined the Police on the streets to disperse the protesters using teargas and live bullets.
The army also deployed heavily at the Nalufenya facility, blocking supporters and NUP officials from entering.
The riots however, turned deadly with dozens of people reportedly shot.
Police said last evening that a total 34 people were injured in the riots and that three people were confirmed dead.
However, some sections of the public disputed these numbers saying many more were victimised,
Speaking to ChimpReports on Thursday morning, UPDF Spokesperson Brig Flavia Byekwaso said the UPDF’s involvement and use of live ammunition to disperse the protesters was largely justifiable.
“What did you expect us to do? Sit back?” she wondered in the phone interview.
“You saw the threat that was on the ground, of course we had to come in.”
Regarding officers shooting at the masses with live bullets, Byekwaso noted that this is allowed, once officers feel threatened.
“If you see an officer pull out a fire arm and shoot, it is in self-defence. We don’t just start shooting at people. You saw that LDU person being beaten in Kosovo and that police officer being beating in the taxi park,” she said.
“Yes there are other measures that have to be employed before using the gun, and I am sure these measures were deployed first.”
It should be noted that President Yoweri Museveni in September directed the Inspector General of Police to issue a set of guidelines to be followed by all officers deployed in riotous satiations, so as to minimise cases of gunshot injuries and fatalities.
In the wake of the NRM primaries in which 6 people were shot dead, Museveni condemned the wanton use of fire arms on the public and called on the Police to take action.
“In Katakwi, civilians were fighting among themselves during the elections. Why shoot them? Why not scare them by shooting in the air or simply arresting them,” Museveni said.
“It was said that in Bugiri, some members of the public stoned the armed personnel. That was bad. However, shooting to kill should not have been the first option. They should have identified the stone thrower and arrested him for prosecution.”
Regarding Police and Military officers who were seen and filmed shooting at people unprompted, Byekwaso said these would be dealt with individually.
“Of course there are those that might act recklessly, but once that happens, we are able to investigate and find out and prosecute them. We have done this before, there are multiple examples.”
The army spokesperson went on to call on the public to tone down the anger and work toward a peaceful election process.
The citizens, she said, should “remain calm and know that in the end, what we all want is for our country to be safe.”
“To the leaders who are aspiring to be president and members of parliament, please respect the laws and guidelines of the Electoral Commission.”
“The country is serious danger now because of this (Covid19) pandemic. Yesterday you heard Dr (Diana) Atwiine telling us that in December we are likely to see more deaths.”
“The situation we are in is different. Right we can no longer do contact tracing. I myself got sick, and even though I have recovered, I couldn’t help wondering where I couldn’t have contracted the virus from. So leaders should try and help us get through this process safely,” she said.