A very unfortunate incident that must not go unreported happened in Kampala on Tuesday, October 3.
Pupils of a primary school in Kyebando, who were travelling with their teachers to attend an official event at Nkumba University in Entebbe municipality, were intercepted and beaten up by goons associated with a group called Boda Boda 2010 Association.
The children’s crime was apparently wearing their red uniform or costume, which, to these men, suggested they oppose the ongoing efforts to lift the presidential age limit in the Constitution. How did we get here?
Sadly, we can’t say we didn’t see this coming. Ever since the government expressed support for the proposal to amend the Constitution and scrap presidential age limits, almost all state machinery has been deployed to promote the proposal, while at the same time putting significant bottlenecks in the way of anyone opposed to it.
Overzealous individuals and groups, both within and out of the government, have taken advantage of this situation to unleash harassment against those deemed to stand in the way of President Museveni’s continued stay in power.
Last week’s fracas in parliament, the gagging of targeted individuals in the media, the arrests of people for the flimsiest of reasons, are all to be understood in this context.
Now, it looks as if the authorities consider the wearing of a red bandana alone, or any red head dress for that matter, which those opposed to the amendment have identified as their symbol, to be a criminal offence.
One risks assault and arrest if they are found in possession of or wearing one. By the time you explain your non-political agenda, you might be in jail or hospital, as these unfortunate children and their teachers found out.
Since when has red colour been outlawed and what’s wrong with anyone expressing a view that is contrary to that of the government and its supporters? What happened to the freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution?
Sad and embarrassing as it is, this incident is an eye-opener. The police practice of using ungazetted individuals and groups to do dirty jobs is very dangerous.