As Uganda counts down to its presidential elections on 14 January, civil unrest has erupted just a couple of miles from where MAF staff live. They have smelt tear gas and heard gunshots and are taking all the necessary precautions. We get the latest from MAF staff in the area..
Violence first erupted on 18 November following the arrest of pop star-turned-presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi - also known as Bobi Wine.
Most of the protests are concentrated in the central business district of Uganda’s capital, Kampala. Police have been using tear gas and live ammunition to disperse crowds who had blocked roads with burning tyres.
More than 800 people have been arrested for unlawful demonstration, assault and robbery. At least 45 people have been killed (Associated Press).
Clashes broke out when Bobi Wine was detained ahead of staging his rally in Luuka District in eastern Uganda. He had planned to address his supporters, but police accused him of breaching coronaviurs restrictions, which limits gatherings to 200 people. He has since been released.
Fake social media content has fuelled misinformation and stoked ongoing tensions.
MAF Uganda’s Engineer, Geoff Linkleter, shares his account:
MAF Uganda’s car mechanic was abducted and beaten
‘There has been much unrest associated with what is perceived as “unfair treatment” of the opposition candidates. People have been killed by the security forces during riots.
It’s very close to home. Richard – MAF Uganda’s car mechanic - was buying spare parts at the market when he was abducted, robbed, beaten and held overnight. The perpetrators told him it was because he was "part of the opposition".
Our security guard’s daughter-in-law was shot in the ribs while out shopping. She was heavily pregnant and during the operation to remove the bullet, she gave birth. They are now doing well and have gone to be with family, but they’ve been left with a medical bill that they can't afford.
Our daughter’s school has been taking precautions. If there’s trouble when term starts after Christmas, they will revert to online schooling. With all the practice they’ve had, that shouldn’t be too difficult! If trouble breaks out during school and they can't get home, each child has been assigned to a family living adjacent to the school where they’ll be able to stay.
Please pray for peace and safety in Uganda leading up to and following the elections.’
‘Further protests and clashes between opposition demonstrators and security forces are likely in the run up to the presidential election in January 2021. Please keep the MAF team and the nation of Uganda in your prayers during this time.’
Steve Forsyth, MAF Uganda’s Programme Manager
Burning barricades in the streets
MAF Uganda’s Pilot, Andrew Parker, shares his account:
‘Tensions have been rising in Uganda as campaigning gets under way. A few weeks ago, that tension reached breaking point when an opposition leader was arrested and crowds took to the streets in protest.
On 18 November, burning tyres and other debris blocked many roads around Kampala and the sound of gun shots and tear gas being fired could be heard frequently from our home.
Shortly after my wife, Liz – who is a teacher - walked home from school, another colleague was unable to use the same road due to burning fires. The next day, the school was closed early to allow students, parents and staff to get home safely. The day after (Friday), school resumed online.
Please keep the people and nation of Uganda in your prayers as the election draws nearer.’
MAF is taking every precaution
Steve Forsyth, MAF Uganda’s Programme Manager, is doing all he can to protect staff on the ground:
‘Our Immediate Response Team is monitoring the situation closely and regularly communicating and advising staff. The UN is providing hourly updates every three hours and the NGO Security Forum is receiving status reports from across the country, so there is a good flow of information. Guidance has been circulated to remind staff how to minimise risks in this situation.’
State security has increased following the unrest. Officials say soldiers will be placed at major roads leading into Kampala and a 9pm curfew will be strictly enforced. The UN has publicly condemned the violence.