The unmanned bus

Kizza Besigye was today arrested again, this time even more brutally than the last.

Many claim that Museveni has now lost it — this is the kind of brutality not seen since the days of Amin. But back then, such things were whispers in the dark, rumors you hoped weren’t all true. Today they are broadcast far and wide for all to see.

But if the state (read: Museveni) appears in disarray, so too does the movement opposing it. Anger, not vision, drives people to the streets. Not one Uganda, one people, but one Besigye who has been brutalized. The campaign is still more anti-Museveni than pro-anything.

As Andrew Mwenda says, Uganda is barreling down a highway, facing four exits: Exit Saudi Arabia, where protests go to die, Exit Yemen where stalemate prevails, Exit Egypt with transformative revolution, and Exit Libya, where civil war reigns.

The problem is that this bus is unmanned, and traveling at high speeds. Which exit will Uganda take? Ordinarily one could try to predict the outcome by the relative organization of either side — Museveni or Besigye/opposition. But disorder and chaos abound on both sides. Thus, the outcome is to a large extent vulnerable to random chance. An accidental gunshot, a careless arrest, a viral video. All these can send the unmanned bus veering off wildly. Who will grab the wheel then?

Sedition is no more!

Time to break out the champagne! Uganda’s archaic sedition law has finally been scrapped, in a much awaited decision made today by the Constitutional Court. This means that a number of Uganda’s journalists will have court cases and charges dropped (though many other charges still remain). Among them include those who have been charged with sedition for likening the Museveni regime to that of Ferdinand Marcos, for discussing Uganda’s role in  the death of John Garang, and for discussing Uganda’s role in the July 11 Kampala bomb attacks, among many others.

The petition to the Constitutional Court on the issue was originally filed in 2005 by the Independent’s Andrew Mwenda (formerly of the Daily Monitor), who was quoted today by AFP saying of the ruling, “Today is not just a good day for journalists. It is a good day for all Ugandans.”

Amen!

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.

Kasubi Tombs Burn

This is serious. A sad day for many, and a great loss to a rich history and culture. I was just the other day thinking that the kingdom should capitalize more on their potential to share Ganda culture and history with the rest of the world. I feel the Kasubi tombs, and many other cultural landmarks around Kampala, are under-appreciated by many visitors to Uganda. Buganda is in an excellent position to share its history and traditions as a way to show the world one of many beautiful and unique sides of Uganda that are often missed, especially in the international media.

Photo by New Vision

There is already much talk of how this tragedy could further fan the flames between the NRM government and the Buganda kingdom. The Buganda Post writes:

“Although there is no word yet on who set the sacred Baganda royal cemetery to fire a vast majority of Baganda lay the blame squarely on Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni. Many point out that Mr. Museveni has laid siege on Buganda since 2009, putting travelling restrictions on Kabaka Mutebi,  shooting dead  over 30 Baganda who protested when the Kabaka was stopped from visiting Kayunga (Bugerere), closing Radio Buganda and persecuting many of the Kabaka’s officials. ”

The Daily Monitor writes that President Museveni will visit the site today.