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Go to hell, Museveni tells city protestors

Tuesday, 14th January 2014
Gen Kale Kayihura (R) and other officials welcome President Museveni at Paraa Safari Lodge where he opened the first East African police retreat yesterday

Individuals or groups that insist on holding demonstrations in busy business areas were yesterday advised to go to hell by President Museveni even as he revealed that Uganda hired out police equipment to help prevent election violence in a neighbouring country.

The President’s comments at a conference of regional police chiefs also included fresh praise for Uganda’s police forces whose response to protests has been criticised as high-handed, brutal and extreme.

The conference taking place at Paraa Safari Lodge in the north-western district of Amuru has been convened in light of the ‘Arab Spring’ revolutions rattling governments across North Africa and the Middle East. President Museveni presented a paper titled: “The recent wave of violence and instability in North Africa and its implications to our region and the rest of Africa”.

“You want to demonstrate? No problem; go to free space but after that go home because we have other things to do. Someone says ‘no, I wish to go to the market and step on women selling their tomatoes in the market’. We, in Uganda, say go to hell. This man (Uganda’s Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura) has enough tear gas once they take enough smoke they go home,” President Museveni said.

Last evening, reaction to Mr Museveni was equally scathing with opposition leaders wondering who should go to hell first.
Peaceful assembly and demonstration are protected as fundamental rights and freedoms under Uganda’s Constitution. The government, however, has increasingly used force to stop its opponents from holding rallies in the city saying they cause chaos and disrupt commercial activity.

Since the 2011 general elections, members of the opposition have been protesting demanding the removal of what they describe as an illegitimate and corrupt government.

The President said Ugandans were lucky not to have elected a president with a village mindset who would have allowed the killing of those who trample on their businesses. “Those Ugandans have been lucky not to elect a man from the village... because in the village, if you step in my potato garden, I spear you and you are finished. If you step on the crops, you will not go home alive and the elders will say there is no case,” he said. He said: “As far as I am concerned, the shop of an urban dweller is his garden.”

Another theme the President warmed up to was the idea of a joint police force for Africa. Dwelling on the subject, he revealed how Uganda had lent out equipment and trained officers, in a country he didn’t mention, to deal with elections “trouble causers”.

“Recently, there was election in one country. As usual, some people wanted to reject results and cause trouble. Someone who knew our experience in dealing with trouble makers approached us and we rented them equipment. We helped them,” he said.

President Museveni has been accused by Kenya’s former premier Raila Odinga of meddling in that country’s internal politics. Mr Odinga has twice contested the results of elections in which he has participated, noting that they were rigged. It was not immediately clear if Kenya was the country President Museveni was referring to.

The on-going conference has been organised by the East African Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation under the theme: “Challenges of contemporary policing in the Eastern Africa region and beyond: Managing violence and cybercrime”. Members will discuss two main topics:
Understanding and managing contemporary violence, with focus on the wave of violence and instability that rocked North Africa and its implications. And secondly: the role of technology in security and stability.

Recent elections in Uganda’s neighbouring countries

President Museveni did not mention the country to which police equipment was rented out to contain election violence. However, all the neighbouring countries have had a presidential election in the past three years.

South Sudan
South Sudan began the cycle in April 2010 when president Salva Kiir was overwhelmingly elected president of Africa’s newest nation ahead of its cessation from the North. By then it was an autonomous part of Sudan.

Rwandan president Paul Kagame won re-election with 93 per cent of the vote in August 2010. Electoral observers had expected the outcome, and Kagame claimed victory after early results gave him a huge lead in the nation’s second presidential race since the 1994 genocide. Mr Kagame’s nearest rival, Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo polled just 5.15 per cent of the vote.

Tanzania’s president Jakaya Kikwete was re-elected in November 2010. The election commission said Mr Kikwete won just over 61 per cent of the votes. The main opposition leader, Willibrod Slaa, had called for a vote recount, but the commission said there were not enough irregularities to change the final result.

The following year (December 2011), president Joseph Kabila won the closely contested DR Congo’s election. He obtained 49 per cent of the vote against 32 per cent for veteran opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi. Mr Tshisekedi rejected the results and declared himself president.

Uganda’s neighbour to the east held its poll in March last year. Uhuru Kenyatta won the presidential election. He won 50.07 per cent of the total votes cast, in comparison to his closest rival, Mr Raila Odinga, who pulled 43 per cent of the votes. The poll followed the one in 2007 which was marred by violence.