Otunnu: We Were Peaceful During Second Uganda Elections Protest

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Teargas and bullets scattered demonstrators in Jinja, a town in central Uganda on Friday, during the second elections protest held by a newly formed coalition of Ugandan political parties: the Campaign for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE).

The otherwise peaceful demonstration was broken up by police and security forces less than halfway through the day's events.

Olara Otunnu, president of the Uganda People's Congress and member of CAFFE, spoke to the Black Star News Saturday afternoon from Kampala about the chaotic event and described in detail the interactions of security personnel and police with the demonstrators.

Otunnu said before the march organizers were sent around Jinja town to educate people about the purpose of the demonstration and to urge them to remain calm and peaceful. Supporters were told to march "absolutely peacefully" regardless of the reaction of security forces deployed throughout the town.

Otunnu: ... the whole town was very much sensitized about our goals, and operation.  So when we started, the whole thing was without incident, it was completely peaceful, more people were gathering as we went along, which is what we'd expected.

Military Shoots Teargas, Bullets

And so, this was swelling to maybe a further 3,000 people...When we were now approaching the area where we were going called Kazimingi, Kazimingi Grounds, where we were going to sign the Blue Book -- right there, in that place -- as we were moving forward, we were ambushed by security forces.

They began to shoot from behind us. They were not in front of us, they were not on our side, they were behind us when they began shooting live bullets and canisters of teargas.
The live bullets didn't hit anybody as far as I know. So they either missed the crowd, or may have been in the air, or maybe on the ground, I don't know. But of course the teargas hit a lot of people and spread into the area. So all of us had our share of tears.

Now at that stage -- it was very sudden -- a sudden outburst of (gun) fire, and people began to run for cover, because they didn't know what was going on.
And I told those that were around me, as they tried to pull me away, 'no, no, no,' we should remain completely, we should not run, we should not move, we should stay completely still. We should face the police. We should turn and face them.
So those who were around me, there must have been 10 people or so, we then stood still, in the middle of the compound, in the middle of the grounds, and faced the police as they advanced towards us with teargas flying in the air.
So really we were in clear sight of them, right facing them. Then as they advanced towards us they stopped, then they did a ring around us.
And all this, by the way was being done by the District Police Commander (DPC) ... he was there commanding in person... His name is Jonhathan Misunguzi. He was the one who was commanding and was personally in control of all this.

Two Women Hospitalized
Two women were badly injured. One woman we left in Jinja... she was unconscious, she was rushed to the hospital. I don't know what hit her, I didn't get a full description, but clearly it must have been a canister of teargas.
The other woman was a journalist (TopTV) -- one of the journalists accompanying us -- she was hit and I think she fell hard on her face and lost two of her teeth. She was bleeding profusely. She also hurt her foot badly, her camera was destroyed.

As we then tried to rescue her, and tried to take her to a place where she could get some attention, one of our people actually approached the police commander.

We asked him to go and say to the police commander -- can you please evacuate this woman who was badly injured? He (the commander) refused. We said, can one of your cars, one of your jeeps take her? He refused.
So we had to carry this woman on our shoulders -- I didn't carry her myself -- but our people did, to an area where one of our cars was waiting and then take her to a dentist's clinic for emergency operations on her teeth and mouth.

Later on we had to evacuate her from Jinja to a hospital in Kampala, to have them attend to her lips, which were also cut, and her foot, where she'd fractured her bone.

Jinja a 'War Zone'
So then the military people continued throughout Jinja.  Everywhere in Jinja was a war zone, and they were lobbying teargas in every window and every shop, even where there was no procession taking place... some of the soldiers were heard saying afterwards that they had 'orders from above,' they had orders to shoot.

So that is what happened in Jinja yesterday.
BlackStarNews: There were early reports that you and some of the other opposition candidates had been beaten.

Otunnu: No, that is not true. they did not beat us, they did not touch us.
BlackStarNews: There were also reports that you had been surrounded and detained by armed soldiers.
Otunnu: That was when we were ringfenced. We stood in the middle of the ground, they advanced towards us, we were facing them, I was facing them, but we stood still, then the military commander gave orders for them to surround us to encircle us with their guns trained on us.

BlackStarNews: So what's next?
Otunnu: We move forward. We will continue to hold demonstrations.

Related Article: Kampala Demonstration (March 9) Police Action Overshadows Peaceful Protest

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