Mabira Riots: Police, Environmentalists Trade Accusations of Violence

2376 Views Kampala, Uganda
Accusations are being traded between the police and members of the Save Mabira Crusade pressure group over the riots in Kampala today. While the police point fingers at the demonstrators for breaking the law and inciting violence, the Save Mabira Crusade says the police was unnecessarily heavy handed and forced the crowds to defend themselves. Kampala Extra police spokesperson, Simeo Nsubuga, accuses the pressure group of breaking its promise to hold a peaceful demonstration and failure to control the crowds. He says that during a meeting with the Save Mabira Crusade yesterday, it was resolved that the demonstrators would not be allowed into the busy streets of Kampala for fear that they would disrupt business. The group was instructed to congregate at the Railways Square on Jinja Road and then to pass through Nasser Road, to connect to Entebbe Road and on to the Clock Tower where a rally would be held. Nsubuga says that despite several warnings, the crowds attempted to force their way out of the agreed route, attacking anyone who stopped them. He says the police were forced by the violent crowds to employ anti-riot tactics to stop the mob action. But Beatrice Atim, the Kitgum Woman Member of Parliament who is also the leader of the Save Mabira Crusade, says the police brutalized the crowd. She says the extra deployment of military police and local defense units was harsh and uncalled for. Atim's argument is supported by the Kampala Central MP, Elias Lukwago, who blames the police for reacting with excessive force. He says none of the demonstrators is at war with Government and wonders why the military police showed up on the streets of the city in armored vehicles. Uganda Radio Network witnessed cases of both mob violence and police brutality. Reporters on the scene overheard some members of the crowd plotting to march through Kampala Road, clearly defying police orders. They also saw the demonstrators attack a police vehicle and smash its windscreen. On the other hand, several police officers were witnessed beating up innocent passersby and people who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The following is a sound montage of some of the turning points in the riots. It shows the progression of a peaceful, albeit heated demonstration, into a chaotic riot. //Cue in: iI'm called Ssekabira Godfrey #i Cue out: i# you prevent me?i//