Getting ready for post-poll violence

Army deploys early, more killings likely

Kampala, Uganda | MUBATSI ASINJA HABATI | The electoral violence witnessed in the current election period has got many people wondering how the post election 2021 will be. Some fear there could be post election violence in form of street protests, looting, or even worse.

Many people who spoke to The Independent say the election aftermath will be difficult given the way people protested the arrest of National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine.

Immediately Kyagulanyi was arrested on Nov. 18 there were protests in the capital City Kampala and major urban centres across the country including in Jinja, Mukono, and Luwero. Many observers said the protests were spontaneous but the security forces and President insist they were pre-planned and organized with the help of foreign forces.

The Nov.18 protests also were different from previous protests, such as the Buganda riots of September 2009 when the Kabaka was stopped from traveling to Kayunga District. Even the Walk-to-Work protests organised by FDC’s strongman Kizza Besigye did not come close to having a spread out effect in major towns of Uganda like the `Free Bobi Wine protests’ which were also carried out by some Ugandans in the UK and USA.

Earlier, in the run up the nomination of presidential candidates on November 3, a joint security operation rounded up offices of the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) party and confiscated civilian clothes that imitated military wear including red berets.

Having observed the violence in the current Presidential Elections campaign, on Nov 19 the US Embassy in Kampala issued a security alert to its citizens living within Uganda to take extra security measures. The alert titled “Uganda, Election Activity May Bring Periodic Violence, Traffic Disruptions” described these as having a potential to occur throughout the country.

“Ugandan presidential campaigning and election activity continue to bring large gatherings, periodic violence, and significant traffic disruptions that impact the security of U.S. Citizens.  General elections are slated for January 14, 2021.  Clashes at large gatherings and outbreaks of violence have occurred before, during, and after past general elections in Uganda.  Police routinely use force, including tear gas, rubber bullets, and live ammunition, to disperse protests.  Demonstrations throughout Uganda are likely to remain common and may often escalate to violence,” the US Embassy alert reads.

This security warning from Americans may not be far-fetched since a September 2019 study conducted by Democratic Engagement and Action, a local civil society organization, revealed that many people involved in election preparations and Ugandan politics expect violence around the 2021 election.  The study looked at early warning signs of violence ahead of the elections and strategies to mitigate unrest.

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