“I am not going to a theater of death but if it takes my life to bring equity to Ugandans, I’d regard that as a privilege,” that’s what one young Ugandan told his friends before he set off yesterday morning to welcome home opposition leader Dr.Kizza Besigye who had been receiving treatment in Nairobi Kenya.
After being blocked by what many believe were Ugandan authorities to get into the country on May 11, Besigye decided his return would conincide with President Yoweri Museveni’s 5th swearing in ceremony at Kololo Independence grounds.
Museveni’s swearing in ceremony was not that well attended by even African leaders save for DRC, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria and Zimbabwe. As President Museveni’s ceremony was ending with dances, on the otherside of the town crowds had already gathered, not to catch a glimpse of their revolutionary president but to welcome a man that has taken the brutality of this regime to international limelight.
Besigye left Uganda for treatment in Kenya after his brutal arrest that left him almost blind. His support has suddenly increased as the government has deployed thousands of police and military in different parts of the country to quell the walk to work protests, a campaign by the opposition against the rising fuel and food prices.
In April, 9 people were killed and hundreds were left with gunshot wounds. So when Brian Bwesigye set out yesterday determined to walk to meet Besigye’s convoy from Entebbe, it was an act that could only come from a young Ugandan who is unable to make sense of his president’s speeches that seem to only point to the past.
The road Besigye and his supporters occupied for 8 hrs was the same to be used by President Museveni and his guests as they make their way to the lavish State House that the president put up in Entebbe.
Military and Police forces were seen beating up Besigye supporters to get them off the road. This must have been an embarrassing moment for the president and his regime sympathizers. A day that was meant to be for the president to boast of his 68 percent win in the February election became the day when thousands sacrificed, waited in the sun, faced with canes, teargas and bullets to catch a glimpse of Besigye.
President Museveni was forced to go through these crowds that waited for his arch rival on his day. The government’s account was that one motorcyclist was shot dead as he insisted on crossing Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s convoy. Reports show that Jonathan’s convoy got stoned and one government spokesperson said this on TV but the Nigerian president’s office has denied the story. Fred Opolot from Uganda government Media Center told the story of the shooting of a rowdy boda boda man, he looked unremorseful even knowing that there could have been other ways to get this man out of the way but not killing him. I guess that hows cheap life has become here.
So far that’s the only death the news media have reported. But Bwesigye who was part of the Besigye supporters posted a note on his Facebook saying:
Then as we approached Kibuye, TEAR GAS started rocking! Then bullets! Then helicopter gunships flying over us! Then poisoned water! Then dead bodies! Three of them, I saw with my naked eyes! Tension. I hid in a residential apartment nearby and from the third floor in someone’s house, I was watching Besigye atop his car in the face of the shooting.
I honestly did not know that I would later see dead bodies of civilians after being shot by the, military, I used the theater of death expression as a hyperbole, I was wrong, it was real.
It’s not yet clear how many people lost their lives just because they went out to welcome an opposition leader an like all past deaths from live ammunition we don’t expect to see any investigation or arrest of those responsible for they probably were following ‘orders from above’.
The numbers wont be clear also because of the way the government has pushed the media into a tight corner. For the State TV which covers most of the country it is almost abominable to show Besigye and his supporters, we have seen the New Vision coverage dwindle and last night it was clear the whip had well reached the private TV stations.
On the night when many Ugandans were injured and thousands gathered to see an opposition leader, NTV Uganda showed about 30 minutes of Museveni’s swearing in. One wd mistaken their coverage as a paid advert by the regime. One by one the reports followed about Museveni’s achievements and the beatings, teargas and bullets at Entebbe raod took 3 minutes with no mention of the injured.
The pressure is on but WBS TV offered Ugandans best coverage of the different events. If media is ready to give in to government threats at the earliest God knows what sort of news we will be watching by the end of the next five years.
The security forces went farther to assault journalists, steal their cameras and destroy other equipment in what seems like a well orchestrated move to curtail press freedom. And all this didn’t appear much on our TVs.
If the Swearing in day is anything to go by, one can only see that the next five years will be a tough period for Ugandans. Especially looking at the president’s speech which didn’t offer concrete ideas on how his government will deal with increasing unemployment and corruption.