Anti-riot police and the military in Nebbi are engaging in running battles with dozens of rioters protesting the swearing-in of Robert Okumu as the new district chairman.
Eye witnesses say as soon as the Nebbi Chief Magistrate, John Agaba sworn-in Okumu, supporters of former district chairman, Esrom Alenyo, whom he defeated in a vote recount stormed the district headquarters questioning the move.
Anti-riot police who have for long been preparing for such an eventuality following acrimonious electoral and legal battles immediately swung into action and began battling the protestors in their dozens.
The police shelled the protestors with teargas canisters as they retaliated with stone missiles and other objects.
Business has literally come to a close in Nebbi town as the anti-riot police continue to battle the protesters. The Pakwach-Nebbi-Arua road has been cut off and traffic on the busy highway has been blocked.
Pameal Murungi, a resident of Nebbi says they have been indoors since 11:00 am when the riot started and that she could still hear gunshots in the streets.
Murungi says the rioters have lit bonfires on the streets as they battle the police, now reinforced by the military as they fire live bullets in the air to ward off the protesters.
Our reporter Benedict Okethwengu in Nebbi says while the police are dispersing the protesters they almost immediately regroup and storm another part of the town.
Okethwengu says the military have been called in after the protesters seemed to overwhelm the anti-riot police some of whom have been drawn in from the neighbouring districts of Zombo and Arua.
He says Alenyo’s supporters could have been disturbed with the swearing-in of Okumu since the hearing of the case in which Alenyo is challenging the outcome of the recount was supposed to start today in Arua High Court.
After the February 23 elections, the Electoral Commission initially declared Esrom William Alenyo winner with 82 votes, but Okumu claimed there were irregularities in the elections.
As the court battles raged on, the Electoral Commission gazetted Alenyo as the winner but after the recount, the Nebbi chief magistrate, John Agaba, ordered the Electoral Commission to degazette Alenyo and instead gazette Okumu as the district chairman.
Alenyo and his lawyers got an interim injunction blocking Okumu’s gazettement but the Arua High Court judge, Joseph Mulangira, last week lifted the injunction.
Once the injunction was lifted, Okumu and his lawyers moved swiftly and ensured that the Electoral Commission gazettes him as per the court order.
Last week Alenyo’s name was removed from the Uganda Gazette and yesterday Robert Okumu was gazetted as the new Nebbi district chairman in the Uganda Gazette, paving way for his swearing-in ceremony this morning.
The swearing-in ceremony is being attended by top district officials including the outgoing chairman Pascal Wapokra and the Resident District Commissioner, Betty Adima. Also in attendance are the West Nile Regional Police Commander, Samuel okot and the 409 brigade commander, Lt Col Martin Ndyanabo.
Despite the skirmishes, the district council is in session and has elected Kucwiny woman councilor, Ida Fuambe, as the district speaker and are in the process of approving the new district executive.
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