Police in Mbale and Sironko spent the better part of Sunday in running battles with supporters of National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate, Robert Ssentuma Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine.
Kyagulangyi, who was in Bugisu region failed to address any of his planned rallies in Sironko and Mbale districts as police used teargas and live bullets to disperse hundreds of people who turned up.
In Sironko, Kyagulanyi was expected to address his supporters at Nakiwondye primary school ground in Budadiri town council but police blocked his campaign team from using the venue. They instead advised his team to relocate the rally to Mafudu primary school in Mafudu sub-county, which is over 10 kilometres away from Sironko town. Kyagulanyi declined to go to the new venue.
From Kumi, he used the Namgumba-Buwalasi road to enter Sironko but was stopped by police at Buweri bridge in Buyobo sub-county. Teargas and live bullets rocked Buyobo trading centre as police under the command of Sironko district police commander, Edison Muhanji battled Kyagulany's supporters and forced Kyagulanyi out of Sironko before he could address any rally.
There were running battles along the road from Sironko to Mbale as police engaged the youth who lined the road to cheer on Kyagulanyi and escorted him to Mbale town. On his entry to Mbale, Kyagulanyi was welcomed by heavily armed police and army officers backed by several armoured vehicles.
Just like in Sironko, thousands of people had lined the Kumi-Soroti road in Mbale to receive Kyagulanyi who had scheduled a campaign rally in Mbale city stadium. The supporters who were dancing to Kyagulanyi's 'Freedom' song and chanting the 'People Power' slogans, engaged in running battles with police for more than 7 hours from the time the presidential candidate entered the town until he left.
Police staged roadblocks on all major roads leading to the town and attempted to lead the presidential candidate through Nabuyonga Rise road to Mbale stadium. However, Kyagulanyi beat the tight security and entered the central business district through a short cut road near Joy Hospice hospital on Nabuyonga Rise.
It took Kyagulanyi close to two hours to get to Mbale stadium where thousands of his supporters were waiting for him after police intercepted him around Housing Finance bank on Republic street, which turned into another battleground between the police and NUP supporters. The youthful supporters started picking the fired teargas canisters and throwing them back at the police.
At around 5:45 pm, Kyagulanyi’s bodyguards whisked him away into Mbale stadium for the campaign rally but it was cut short by police, which said it was past campaigning time. Fred Ahimbisibwe, the Mbale district police commander, had earlier told journalists that they wouldn’t allow any procession in town.
Edison Muhanji, the Sironko district police commander said that they blocked Kyagulanyi’s rally because it had been scheduled to take place at a health facility, which they couldn’t allow.
KYAGULANYI BEATS SECURITY TO ATTEND MASS
Although he didn’t address the church congregates, Kyagulanyi addressed the press at Eneku village where he decried police brutality against his supporters and other opposition candidates amidst the loud silence on the part of the Electoral Commission.
"You have all seen that Mr Museveni wherever he goes as a candidate, people converge, he holds processions, his supporters are not harassed, but instead they are protected by police and the army. But for us, we’re not even allowed to exist in our country peacefully. Our supporters are harassed, they teargassed, they are beaten. We thought this is a presidential election that is sanctioned and we thought every presidential candidate is going to be given an equal platform and equal protection from the law. Unfortunately, that is not the case," said Kyagulanyi.
Kyagulanyi was teargassed in Amuria district. His supporters were also involved in running battles with police in Soroti town who tried to stop him from accessing the town.
David Ongom Mudong, the East Kyoga Regional police spokesman, says Kyagulanyi’s supporters defied security guidelines provided by engaging in processions, something he notes caused police to react.