At around 10:00am today Saturday, State Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development, Mwesigwa Rukutana, boarded his official vehicle at his home in Rubaare, Ntungamo District.
He was accompanied by friends and relatives in different cars.
The family was traveling to Kayonza in the same district for the burial of Rukutana’s in-law.
One of Rukutana’s son had returned from picking a Reverend only to find the road blocked by two cars – a Rav 4 brand car and Premio occupied by several people including opposition FDC’s Dan Rweiburingi.
Rukutana’s son pleaded with Rweiburingi’s squad to vacate the road to allow him pass in vain.
“I am late for the burial,” he said, adding, “Could you please tell us why you think we can’t leave this place?”
The men who blocked access to the main road decided to raise their vehicles’ widows.
Surprised by what was happening, Rukutana dispatched his police bodyguard to “go and clear the way.”
“One of the guards returned and told Rukutana that the men were not willing to vacate the place,” said Agnes Tushabe, one of the eyewitnesses who talked to ChimpReports today.
Rukutana thought the men would later clear the way for this convoy to proceed to the burial ceremony.
“Rukutana spent considerable time on the phone waiting for the men to drive away in vain. So he sent the bodyguards again to go and use their authority to clear the way but the men locked their cars and refused to move. Bodyguards banged the cars’ bonnets but the men didn’t move. This is what infuriated Rukutana,” said Tushabe.
The enraged Minister disembarked his car and tried to signal the driver of the Rav 4 car to drive away from the road junction but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
“People had started converging at the scene. But suddenly, a group of about eight men came running towards the cars. The Minister sensed danger and quickly grabbed the gun from the police guard,” recalls Tushabe who also appeared in the video that has gone viral.
The police guard removed a magazine from the gun and urged Rukutana not lose his cool.
In a twinkle of an eye, another group of men, presumably Rukutana’s supporters, emerged from the nearby trading centre of Rugungi.
“In the heated moment, Rweiburingi disembarked the car and started charging at Rukutana asking him, ‘who do you think you are?’ We don’t know what this FDC man was doing here. He was quickly intercepted and a fight ensued. Rweiburingi was injured in this battle,’” said Tushabe.
Asked about the car which whose windows were damaged, Tushabe said they were stoned during today’s violence.
“No single gunshot was fired, no one died,” she emphasised.
Ntungamo DPC Damian Katwesime dismissed social media reports that Rweiburingi was shot dead.
“No, he is still being hospitalized,”Katwesime told us.
This development came high on the heels of unprecedented political violence in Rushenyi NRM MP Primaries.
Voting in some parts of Rushenyi were on Friday postponed over violence.
In Rubaare sub-county, elections were not held after unidentified men ran away with the register.
While NRM Electoral Commission Chief Tanga Odoi said the mastermind of the theft was hiding near the border with Tanzania, sources say the alleged thief was hidden by a top politician in the area.
Rubaare is the birthplace of area MP Rukutana.
The theft of the register in Rubaare raised fear that the plotters were supporters of Rukutana’s rival, Naome Kabasharira.
In some villages in the Town Council, elections could not be held due to violence.
The NRM Electoral Commission Registrar, Miria Baitwa Mirembe decided to postpone elections in that sub-county, saying a new date for polls in the affected areas would be communicated.
The delay in releasing the full results as a result of violence has since triggered anger in Ntungamo with many saying the district could perfectly land in the hands of FDC in the 2021 general elections.
Nevertheless, after the fight at Rugungi trading centre, the road was cleared as some of the men who were camped there fled.
The Rukutanas then drove to the burial where he received several calls from dozens of people who wanted a brief on what had transpired.
The video of Rukutana grabbing a gun from a police Guard had gone viral on social media.
On return, Rukutana received a call directing him to go to Rubaare Police to record a statement.
“We are waiting for you. It’s an order from above,” a security officer was overheard telling Rukutana.
The Minister sought clarity on “who” was issuing orders but was simply told to obey.
Two police pick-up trucks escorted Rukutana to Rubaare Police Post before proceeding to Ntungamo Police Station and later Mbarara Police Station (Regional police headquarters).
Deputy Police spokesperson Polly Namaye later said in a statement that “Police in Ntungamo has this afternoon arrested and detained Hon. Rukutana together with his three escorts following a shooting incident in Ruhaama, Ntungamo district in which one person was seriously injured and a motor vehicle damaged.”
She added: “The victim was rushed to hospital in critical condition while the suspects are in detention on charges of inciting violence, attempted murder by shooting and malicious damage.”
A section of Ugandans has condemned Rukutana for trying to use a gun yet he had security.
Some critics said he should not have lost his cool as he could have called for more police deployment to clear the way for his convoy.
The Ministers’ supporters at the crime scene said Rukutana was not involved in assaulting Rweiburingi.
”Police should have arrested everyone who was there – people who blocked the road and those who fought,” said Difas Mujuni, a vendor in the area.
”Police and other security organs have been here to investigate what happened and we told them everything – we didn’t hear any shooting. If the Rav 4 car was shot at many times, police would have found many bullet shells allover but there was none,” said Julius Twinemanzi, an eyewitness.
We were yet to establish if Rukutana had recorded a statement.
He, however, told this investigative website that, “These people came to my farm and blocked my family members from leaving our home. My guards went and urged them to leave but they refused. So, I was trying to secure myself.”
As of Saturday night, Rukutana was still held at Mbarara Regional Police Station.