By Badru Afunadula
Uganda’s army late Sunday decided it was time to say something about persistent rumours of its alleged involvement in the Kenyan post-election aftermath.
With protests still rumbling away in opposition strongholds across the border, web Brig. Richard Karemire, more about the army spokesman, put out a statement denying that Ugandan troops have been deployed to assist the Kenyan state machinery confront the ongoing troubles.
The brigadier’s statement recalls other reports which followed the also-disputed previous Kenyan election in 2013 when, again, incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta faced off with long-standing rival Raila Odinga.
At the time, it was claimed that Kenyatta had asked for help from Uganda’s President Museveni, who reportedly deployed elements from the Special Forces to neutralise pro-Odinga supporters.
Museveni’s negative comments about Odinga’s JaLuo community in those tense post-election moments seemed to confirm his side in that election which Odinga insists was stolen from him – just like the August 8 poll.
Some political watchers, given the tribal context within which politics is acted out in the region, suspect that Museveni has never been comfortable with the prospect of a Luo leader in Kenya, especially given his own history fighting the Obote II government which was dominated by Luos.
But Brig. Karemire told journalists that the claims of an unofficial, unsanctioned, cross-border excursion by Ugandan troops into Kenya was misinformation.
“The UPDF wishes to totally denounce these allegations which are totally false, alarmist and misleading,” said Brig. Karemire in a statement on Sunday.
The statement further adds, “The Uganda government and indeed the UPDF has neither received such a request on deployment nor is there a situation that warrants it.”
He was reacting to tabloid and other media reports which said the UPDF had deployed in Kenya last week shortly after Kenya’s general elections.
The declaration of the incumbent as winner for a second term in office has sparked countrywide protests.
In an escalation of Kenya’s deadly election violence, police on Saturday fired live ammunition at rioters and used tear gas on vehicles carrying opposition officials trying to enter Kibera slum where they have strong support, according to a human rights watchdog.
At least six people have been shot dead since August, according to police figures although opposition leaders say that up to 100 have died at the hands of the security forces so far.
A young girl was killed inside her family home in Mathare, Nairobi after being hit by a suspected stray bullet, while nine bodies with gunshot wounds were brought overnight to the capital’s main morgue. A watchdog group said police gunfire has killed 24 people since Tuesday’s disputed vote.
Police has since come under scrutiny for what the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, which monitors government institutions, described as the “unlawful and unacceptable” use of excessive force.
Seventeen of the two dozen people shot by police died in Nairobi, the commission said. It cited allegations of police breaking into homes, beating people, threatening them with rape and demanding money.
The Kenya Red Cross said it helped a total of 93 people who were injured during the clashes since the election results were announced.
Kenya’s main opposition NASA accuses state security forces of having killed more than 100 people in clashes related to last week’s disputed elections.
Contrary to NASA and human rights claims, authorities said they had no knowledge of any deaths and that the country remains largely peaceful.
Kenyan elections have routinely been marred by violence since the country became a multiparty democracy in 1991. At least 1,100 people died in the wake of a disputed 2007 vote between Odinga and Mwai Kibaki, and about 350,000 people were forced to flee their homes.
It was in 2007 that allegations of UPDF deploying in Kenya first came up, a charge that was denied by the army.
Meanwhile, UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres has called on Odinga to “send a clear message to his supporters urging them to refrain from violence,” a statement on Saturday said.