Uganda’s Minister of Security Elly Tumwine, in a statement issued on November 20th, said that President Yoweri Museveni had given police the authority of shooting to kill if protesters “reach a certain level of violence”. These protests have risen due to the arrest of Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as Bobi Wine, a former pop star who is now running as a presidential candidate in the upcoming elections. According to reports, up to 37 people were killed and another 65 injured in the protests following Kyagulanyi’s arrest.
Bobi Wine has been arrested multiple times, but the most recent one on November 18th was due to being accused of violating safety guidelines that were implemented in light of the coronavirus. Following his detainment, Mr. Wine was refused the right to contact his lawyers and family members for the next two days. Organizations like Human Rights Watch have spoken up and accused the authorities of using COVID-19 precautions as a means of weakening and repressing the opposition. Indeed, another presidential candidate by the name of Patrick Oboi Amuriat was arrested on the same day on the allegation of planning an unauthorized procession. On the other hand, Museveni’s own party – the National Resistance Movement – found its own procession uninterrupted despite possessing a similar number of people.
Museveni himself delivered a speech that was shared on his Twitter account, in which he claimed that outside sources were playing a big role in influencing these events. He says, “Some of these groups are being used by outsiders, homosexuals…groups outside there who don’t like the stability of Uganda, the independence of Uganda.” President Museveni has actually ruled over Uganda since 1986, making it nearly 34 years that he has been in power. In recent times, he has been accused of allowing corruption to manifest within the country, as well as his tendency to persecute his opponents along with homosexuals and journalists. Amnesty International has reported many other problematic decisions that were made under his authority, like “restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly of political opposition members, journalists, human rights defenders and students.”
Human Rights Watch has condemned these acts of violence, and are calling for the Ugandan authorities to permit its people the right to peacefully protest without provocation from the police. Oryem Nyeko, who is a researcher at Human Rights Watch states, “The authorities can stem the slide toward further violence by ending the harassment of journalists and opposition candidates and their supporters, and the violent disruption of their campaign rallies.” Undoubtedly, President Museveni must cease the suppression of his fellow presidential candidates as well as the journalists who report on his actions. He must also exercise accountability in his actions and problematic decisions rather than simply denying the valid accusations against him. If a country is to allow its citizens the right to vote, let it be done in a genuine and authentic manner.
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