"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Saturday, April 23, 2011

social unrest in uganda

This past week I asked Melissa to describe the current situation in Uganda (regarding the recent election and political/social unrest). She replied with this comprehensive update:

"Directly following Museveni's reelection for President in February, he firmly stated that he would not allow any protesting of any sort to occur in Uganda, as he did not want Uganda to become like other African countries in the recent media. He forewarned political opponents and civilians alike that the harshest, firmest punishments would ensue for any such protesters. Within the last few weeks, many of the Presidental candidates have been publically denouncing Museveni for the increased prices of fuel (among other things). The two loudest, and most publically known opponents are Kizza Besigye (who was 2nd in the election) and Norbert Mao (who was a very distant 3rd). Each gentleman has staged a couple of 'Walk-To-Work' Protests where people are urged to chose to walk to work instead of taking a taxi or boda boda to show dissatification for the increased fuel prices (which has been directly correlated to other increased prices for food and other necessities). The men have publically urged others to take a stand against the rising fuel prices. All of the demonstrations have ended in the police using excessive force, tear gas, and rubber bullets in attempts to get the protesting to stop.

Following each protest (and there have been about 4 of them), the leader of the protest is arrested to inciting public violence and held accountable for the injuries that occurred during the protests. (Each man has been arrested at least twice.) Within a few days of arrest, either Besigye or Mao is released from jail by the courts. As of today, both men are back in jail-- Mao for his leadership of a demonstration earlier this week in Gulu, which resulted in a couple of deaths (as people ingested too much tear gas from police), and Besigye for his leadership of a demonstration mid-week that resulted in the death of a small child. Museveni has publically released statements that while he does not condone any excessive violence by police, these men should heed his warning about further protests within Uganda.

Besigye's first protest was actually stopped here in Kajjansi. Besigye was injured by a rubber bullet which broke one of his fingers. The shots of the guns could be heard from the school, although at the time, we did not know what was happening. Moses, SMK Headmaster, has been very cautious this term about releasing students to guardians and keeping them at school until the end of the term following that event.

There is a noticable increase in police and miliary soldier presence again around Kampala. At least one officer within a large group will have tear gas canisters on his jacket, probably more as a visible deterant. But I have not felt unsafe within Kampala. I just follow the news daily to chose my day to go into town.

Click here to read an April 21st NYT article about the situtation.

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