Uganda: Museveni's military police close in on Lukwago and Besigye
What is happening in Kampala, Uganda, besides the deployment of Ugandan troops to "seal off the residences of the embattled city Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago and former FDC [opposition] president Dr. Kiiza Besigye"? That's what Uganda's New Vision Newspaper reported, beneath the headline "Police deploy at Lukwago, Besigye homes," but no one else is reporting this, the latest development in Lukwago and Besigye's challenge to the autocratic rule of General Yoweri Museveni.
The New Vision is widely perceived to be the vehicle of General Yoweri Museveni, Uganda's head of state for the past 27 years, since his victory and seizure of power, with U.S. assistance, in the Ugandan Bush War. So it's hardly a surprise that The New Vision had the scoop. Or, that they reported the justifications proferred by Ugandan Police, but not the view of Lukwago, Besigye or any other members of the opposition:
"Police said they had no option but to deploy at the residences of the two opposition politicians in Rubaga division in Kampala and Kasangati in Wakiso district following their alleged insistence to march to city with crowds to access City Hall following a court interim injunction that granted the ousted mayor relief. The police said the insistence by the opposition politicians coupled with an earlier announcement by the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) director, Jennifer Musisi, that City Hall will be closed today (Friday) was a recipe for chaos and mayhem in the city, which they can not allow to happen.
'The deployments are preventive. To prevent un-necessary chaos from occurring in the city,' Ibin Ssenkumbi the Kampala police spokesperson said in a telephone interview."
There's been no follow-up about this in the U.S. press as yet, or on the BBC, or on any other international outlets that I've been able to find on the Web. And though Uganda is, like most of Africa, a very low news gathering priority in the West, it's still erie because the BBC and the AP and Reuters wire services were all covering the events which led to today's announcement that Kogwaya and Besigye's homes have been "sealed off." Since they don't appear to have spoken to the press, not even by telephone or e-mail, it seems likely that they're also "sealed off" from their telecommunications links.
Americans might be expected take interest in Uganda, if they knew these two facts reported in the U.S. Bureau of African Affairs Fact Sheet:
Uganda is a key U.S. strategic partner, particularly through its contribution to the African Union Mission in Somalia.
The United States is Uganda’s largest bilateral donor.
Isn't it reasonable that we might take some interest in a country that we maintain such firm bonds with? Maybe not, since the U.S. has so many firm bonds with so many countries all over the world, including military commands encompassing every single one of them, but nevertheless, this story is not only about Uganda; it's about us here, in the U.S.
Here's what I believe I understand, having followed the build-up to this confrontation since Erias Lukwago announced his candidacy for Mayor of Kampala in the 2011 race:
1) Perceiving that Lukwago was certain to win, General Museveni arranged for Parliament to create the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) and make the mayor merely a "lord mayor," a ceremonial functionary.
2) Lukwago won the election with an overwhelming 229,000+ votes compared to the first runner-up's 119,000+ and his popularity has grown since his election.
3) Museveni feels that Lukwago has stepped outside his ceremonial mayoral role by openly expressing his opposition to Museveni's government and his ruling party, the NRM, often at political opposition rallies.
4) On 11.23.2013, Lukwago was rushed to a hospital, which then reported that he was suffering from "malaria, chest pains and high blood pressure." From the hospital, Lukwago released a statement saying that “the unconscionable persecution and humiliation you (Museveni) have unleashed on me has taken its toll on the entire family.” And that, "You may no doubt succeed in manipulating or circumventing the law to whittle down or completely usurp the authority entrusted to me by close to 230,000 voters. A section of the skewed media may help you denigrate and cast the image of Lukwago as being chaotic and anti development. And I may as well be in my last days on earth. But I want to assure you on one thing, Mr. President: you will not succeed in breaking my spirit, passion and resolve to fight for good governance, constitutionalism, rule of law and social justice.”
5) Museveni convened a "Grand Tribunal" to review the complaints of members of the KCCA, whom he appoints. The Grand Tribunal concluded that Lukwago was guilty of incompetence and abuse of office, and the appointed KCCA then voted to impeach him.
6) Lukwago's lawyers had obtained a court injunction to declare the KCCA illegal, but Ugandan Police roughed him up and prevented him from entering the meeting with the injunction.
7) The next day citizens of Kampala took to the streets in support of the Lord Mayor and the Ugandan Police dispersed them with tear gas.
8) A higher court, identified as the "High Court," then ruled that Lukwago's impeachment by the KCCA was null and void, because of the lower court injunction, until they were able to study the case and make a conclusive ruling on Thursday, 11.28.2013.
9) On the morning of Thursday, 11.28.2013, the High Court ruled that Lukwago's impeachment was null and void, and a jubilant street celebration ensued.
10) Lukwago's supporters announced that they would accompany him to City Hall and back into his office on Friday, 11.29.2013.
11) The KCCA announced that they would close operations, and stop delivering city services because they feared the hostility of Ugandan citizens planning to accompany the mayor to City Hall and back into his office. In other words, no garbage collection, street sweeping, and whatever else the KCCA is responsible for, until they resume operations.
12) On Friday morning, 11.29.2013, before dawn, Ugandan Police deployed and "sealed off" the homes of Lord Mayor Lukwago and his close ally Dr. Kizza Besigye, as reported in The New Vision article.
13) The press, including the BBC, Reuters, AP, and the Uganda Daily Monitor all fell silent, at least until the end of the day, despite their blow-by-blow coverage of this conflict up until that time.
I read the New Vision report first thing in the morning in California, then watched for further news all day. Finally, seeing none, I wrote up this summary.
I'm sure that plenty of notes about all this were delivered to President Obama in the early hours, as soon as the High Court ruled in Uganda, on 11.28.2013, and then again, as soon as Lord Mayor Lukwago and Dr. Besigye's homes were "sealed off," on 11.29.2013. Uganda is, after all, a "key strategic partner," so key that the U.S. is also its largest bilateral donor.