Rumors and Xenophobia

The past several days there have been countless rumors of bomb attacks, failed attacks and discoveries of unexploded suicide vests and the like. Security is very high in most upscale locations such as the Serena, Lugogo shopping center, and Garden City. It takes quite a while to get into some of these places as each car and bag is thoroughly searched (as least as of this afternoon). I don’t know how many additional people have been called on duty, but security companies must be enjoying the increased usage of their already prolific services around town. This amongst much outcry for the resignation of Uganda’s minister for security, Amama Mbabazi.

Apart from the fear of imminent explosions, my biggest concern now is the treatment of the Somali, Ethiopian and Eritrean communities in Kampala, and Uganda more generally. At least one Eritrean man was apparently badly beaten by a mob on Tuesday evening who thought he was a Somali, and the BBC’s Joshua Mmali interviewed a man on radio this morning who said he had trouble even finding bodas (motorcycle taxis, a common form of public transport) because people mistook him for a Somali. Mob justice still reigns in much of the city, and I fear for those innocent people who find themselves at the mercy of fear, anger and misinformation. Even as Ugandan authorities hunt for those responsible for Sunday’s attacks, they should also be aware of the danger in which many refugees, foreign nationals and Ugandan citizens alike now find themselves.

Meanwhile, a Rwandan opposition politician has been found dead in Rwanda.

Kampala Bomb Update

The city streets were largely deserted last night, most people seemed to take their own precautions and stay home. The Daily Monitor today published the photos of some of those whose lives came to a tragic end on Sunday night. My friend Michael Wilkerson yesterday wrote this analysis on the attacks for Foreign Policy.

Yesterday Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attacks, but it is not yet clear whether their claim is credible or if they are simply free-riding from the work of an as yet unknown/unidentified terrorist group. Ugandan authorities today say they found an unexploded suicide bomber vest, and have arrested a number of suspects, according to the latest BBC coverage. President Museveni has also declared a week-long period of national mourning, this just one week ahead of the AU Summit to be held in Kampala.

Great thanks to all my friends and colleagues in the local and international media who have been hard at work, day and night, since this tragedy befell the country. You are doing great work and your service is greatly appreciated across the globe.

My heart goes out to all those who have lost friends and family, may they rest in eternal peace.

Kampala Bomb Blasts Kill Dozens

Bomb blasts at the Kyadondo Rugby Club at Lugogo and Ethiopian Village last night killed dozens of people during the World Cup Finals. I was at a popular bar in town watching the match, and only heard about the blasts in the final moments of the game. Fat Boyz bar in Kisementi closed immediately upon receiving information about the blasts, and other bars in the area emptied at an extraordinary pace.

Local TV footage from the scene at the rugby club showed chairs, bodies and body parts strewn about. One image showed a decapitated head. Those injured at Ethiopian Village in Kabalagala were taken to International Hospital Kampala (IHK). The latest reports say 37 were admitted to IHK and 5 have already died. Injured persons from the rugby club were taken to Mulago Hospital, which reports say was overwhelmed by the sudden influx of patients.

No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, though some speculate that Al Shabaab, a militant Somali group, could be behind the attacks, possibly with on-the-ground support from the Allied Defence Forces (ADF), a Ugandan rebel group. Al Shabaab has warned that there would be consequences for Uganda’s role in AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia). If Al Shabaab is in fact behind the attacks, it is likely they will claim responsibility soon.

These are the worst terrorist attacks the country has faced. See the BBC coverage here, Independent blog coverage here, Monitor Coverage here, and Al Jazeera here.

More updates to come.

heartbreaker

A little late, I know. It’s hard to describe how disappointed/devastated many people were by Ghana’s loss on Friday. I’m tired of debating the outcome of the game, but I will say that I think Ghana lost with dignity, and Uruguay won without it.

I’m not sure the next time I will see people shed tears in a bar, and I can only wonder how many hands were broken that night as they collided into walls in fits of frustration. At least one friend of mine could not move his fingers Saturday morning…

It was a heartbreaking loss, but well done Black Stars, we will be waiting for you in 2014.