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Riots rock Ugandan capital for second day, 3 die

By on September 12, 2009

Gunshots rang out in the Ugandan capital Kampala on Friday and at least three people were killed as security forces clashed with rioters for a second day over a row between the government and the kingdom of Buganda.

The violence has been triggered by land and power disputes between Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s government and leaders of Buganda — one of Uganda’s four ancient kingdoms.

Kabaka Ronald Mutebi, the king of Buganda, postponed a visit scheduled for Saturday to the flashpoint Bugandan town of Kayunga in an effort to avoid further bloodshed.

“We don’t want to see an escalation of the violence”, said Medard Lubega, deputy information minister of Buganda.

Two foreign exchange dealers told Reuters the market was shrugging off the violence. The Ugandan shilling was little changed from Thursday at 1,960 versus the dollar.

On Thursday the Buganda number two, known as the Katikiro, was barred from visiting Kayunga, a town east of Kampala where locals say other ethnic groups have taken prime farmland that the kingdom claims as part of its historical territory. He was preparing the ground for the king’s arrival on Saturday.

Police had said on Friday the visit would not be allowed.

A spokesman for Kampala’s main Mulago Hospital said three people were killed in Friday’s unrest. Deputy police spokesman Richard Musesi told Reuters 50 had been admitted to hospital and about the same number arrested.

Among the dead was a teenager who had been shot in the head and was wrapped in a shawl, surrounded by sobbing relatives. Witnesses said he and another young man were killed by security forces riding armoured personnel carriers.

“This kid was not in the protest. They shot him in a shop,” the boy’s mother told Reuters. She did not give her name.

Kampala’s streets were mostly deserted, and thick plumes of black smoke from burning tyres rose over the city’s hills. Police said four people had been killed on Thursday in similar clashes, but denied using excessive force.

The inspector general of police, Major General Kale Kayihura, decried “hooliganism” and “senseless lawlessness” also afflicting other towns in central Uganda.

In a statement, he said the violence was preceded by inflammatory and sectarian broadcasts by CBS Radio, which is owned by the kingdom of Buganda, and said anyone who wanted to cause chaos or disrupt the peace would be dealt with decisively.

CBS Radio was taken off air on Thursday, and on Friday the authorities closed three more stations they accused of inciting violence: Suubi FM, Radio Sapientia and Radio Two Akabooza.

East Africa’s third biggest economy has been hailed for its political and economic stability over the last two decades following civil war in the 1970s and 80s.

Investor interest is heating up in Uganda’s west where an estimated 2 billion barrels of crude have been discovered by explorers including London-listed Tullow Oil.

Museveni has been widely admired for fiscal reforms and poverty alleviation programmes. Critics, including some Western donors, accuse him of rights abuses and repression.

Conflict with Buganda adds to the pressure on him after the opposition said major reforms were essential if the next election in 2011 was to be free and fair.

Daniel Kalinaki, managing editor of Uganda’s independent Daily Monitor newspaper, said the riots were the biggest test of the former rebel’s presidency. Writing before the announcement that the Bugandan king had postponed his visit, Kalinaki said:

“The first and easier choice would be for the president to put the blame on over-zealous officials and allow the Kabaka to visit Kayunga,” adding this might now make Museveni appear weak and vulnerable to more street protests.

“The second option is to face down the Kabaka and forcefully block (his) visit. This carries its own risks,” he said, adding the organisers of Saturday’s event had put the kingdom’s credibility on the line.

Uganda’s former leader Milton Obote abolished the historical kingdoms in 1966. In the early 1990s, Museveni restored the traditional leaders, who are widely revered by their subjects.

In recent days Museveni has publicly complained about the Bugandan king.


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