- April 14, 2011
- News & Analysis
The New York Times, the Ugandan press and our friends in Uganda are reporting that riots erupted today in Gulu, the largest city in northern Uganda, after opposition leader and former Gulu mayor Norbert Mao was arrested. Mao was arrested for participating in a Gulu “walk-to-work” demonstration to protest rising fuel and food costs in Uganda. Residents in Gulu report that Ugandan military forces are firing live ammunition in the town, and that some people are setting up barricades to block the movement of military forces.
Kampala, Uganda’s capital, also erupted in riots today following police efforts to break up similar demonstrations and arrest another opposition candidate, Kizza Besigye. Mao and Besigye were also arrested on Monday during earlier “walk-to-work” demonstrations, which sparked a US State Department response expressing “concern” about the arrests and calling on the Ugandan government “to respect the opposition’s right to express its viewpoints and citizens’ rights to demonstrate peacefully and without fear of intimidation.”
Both Mao and Besigye ran against incumbent Yoweri Museveni in presidential polls in February and denounced the validity of the elections that awarded President Museveni five more years for a job he has held since 1986. Both candidates called for peaceful demonstrations to protest the results immediately following the elections. Those calls for protest prompted the Ugandan government to outlaw protesting. This week’s protests are the biggest protests against the government so far this year.
We’re watching the news from Uganda closely, and hoping that our many friends there remain safe and that the situation calms. But until President Museveni and his ruling party get serious about fostering democractic governance and freedom of expression, Uganda’s stability and the fundamental political rights of her citizens will remain in jeopardy.
To close, the words of Rt. Rev. Bishop Ochola, one of Resolve’s first mentors on Uganda’s history and politics, are appropriate. The following passage is taken from a speech about February’s elections Bishop Ochola gave this week at a conference hosted by the United Religions Initiative, Great Lakes Region.
“It is this oneness of Uganda, as one people and one nation that calls for mutual respect for every human person from every corner of Uganda. This mutual respect for human life, human dignity and human rights of every human person in Uganda calls for free, fair, just, and transparent electoral processes throughout Uganda. Uganda, as our mother country, belongs to all Ugandans regardless of our political, ethnic and religious differences.
Thus, every son and daughter of Uganda with all the necessary qualities and values of life has the fundamental legitimacy to actively participate in voting exercise, as an electorate. He or she also has every right to participate in a healthy competition for either presidency of Uganda or for parliamentary elections, in order to become a President or Member of Parliament of Uganda. All these electoral processes must be free, fair, just, and transparent in every respect.”