On Tuesday afternoon, President Museveni dispatched a five-page letter detailing his recollection of the unrest that engulfed Arua town on Sunday, August 12, the last day of the municipality parliamentary by-election campaigns.
His letter was largely a response to an earlier one written by Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga demanding action against the Special Forces Command (SFC) officers alleged to have arrested and tortured opposition MPs in Arua.
The president says that on the fateful day, Kyaddondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine’s procession, which was on a march to a rally in the northeast of the town (Arua), “probably deliberately drove to the west of the town in order to block my vehicles that were taking me to the helicopter that had landed and stayed at Pokea Seminary School.”
Museveni says he was surprised to see the procession of opposition groups walking and others on top of vehicles with a “road-grader that had been acquired to, maybe, block the road that I was using to get to my destination.”
The president says as soon as he passed the grader, “I heard two bangs on my vehicle. I was then informed by my ADC that my vehicle had been hit by projectiles thrown by those groups in the opposition procession.”
The president said he instructed his convoy to ignore the hooligans and continue to the helicopter “which they did without firing a bullet.”
To the president, “these were clear signs of the remarkable discipline and restraint as exhibited by the armed forces in the UPDF.”
In the narrative, the head of state said he was worried about the havoc the group would wreak in Arua town. He said that since he didn’t meet the area regional police commander on his way out of Arua, he instructed the UPDF Area Brigade commander to work with other security agencies to protect people and property.
When he left, he said, SFC soldiers went back to Arua town to assist police in dispersing the menacing people “who were clearly so intoxicated that they saw no problem in stoning the vehicle of the president of Uganda…”
“I am informed that the forces have arrested the ringleaders of these rioters as well as some suspects…” he said.
He expressed regret at the death of Yasin Kawuma, Bobi Wine’s driver. He said his security chiefs have said before that the armed forces do not condone torture.
“It is, therefore, premature and factually wrong to suggest that no action has been taken against the wrongdoers among security forces.”
He said the errant police officers who shot, injured and killed two people in Mityana are still being hunted down.
He said, however, that in Arua and Kampala, “the circumstances need closer study because a very dangerous situation had been created by terrorists who appear to have intended to kill a lot of people. I am most pleased with the actions of the security forces in dealing with the menace of the rioters…”
Museveni also mentions incidents in Jinja Municipality East and Bugiri Municipality where he claims women were assaulted and beaten, “property damaged and one person killed in the violence, allegedly caused by some MPs and other accused persons.”
He says he is informed that terrorists are transported from Kampala to upcountry constituencies to unleash terror.
In his comments, he says “I would like to advise that we await the outcome of the investigations (into allegations of wrongdoing if any) currently being carried out under the leadership of the chief of defense forces and inspector general of police and refrain from use of the word torture until we establish the full facts of the events of that day.”
He also told the speaker. “I am sure you are aware that security forces are entitled to use reasonable force while dealing with a suspect who is resisting arrest in the execution of their mandate to protect civilians under threat from rioters or terrorists…”
“As for the cacophony of the so-called human rights defenders, in reality agents of imperialists’ interests and their local lackeys, I would advise them to stop wasting time in Uganda, which has capable systems and institutions beginning with a competent and professional army that can decisively handle whatever problem or shortcomings that we may encounter.
Additional reporting by JOSEPHINE NAMULOKI & SADAB KITTATA KAAYA.