KAMPALA – The opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party has said the police leadership ignored the directive of the Minister of State for Internal Affairs, Mr Obiga Kania, to allow their national conference which was scheduled to take place at Mandela National Stadium, Namboole, on Monday.
On Monday, police blocked the conference and arrested several party members, including Dr Kizza Besigye, claiming that they had not been notified.
But in a statement issued on Tuesday, November 05, 2019, FDC spokesman Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda said whereas they wrote to the minister and were cleared, the police leadership kept dodging them.
“On Monday October 14th 2019, I wrote to the Inspector General of Police notifying him of a seminar the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) intended to host at Mandela National Stadium. I copied the letter to Police Commander Kampala Metropolitan and Kira Division Commander,” he said.
Mr Ssemujju said as the conference organizer, he wrote to Namboole Stadium management who confirmed the availability of the space on the fateful day for meeting.
“A member of staff in my office delivered and followed up the letter with the IGP’s office which issued no reply for two weeks,” he said.
He said on Thursday, October 31st, he telephoned Mr Kania and explained to him the challenges he was encountering with Police.
“I had also unsuccessfully telephoned AIGP Asuman Mugyenyi, director of operations. The office of the IGP had advised us to liaise with him. Minister Obiga Kania promised to talk to the Police over the matter which he did. He wondered during our telephone conversation how a registered party, FDC was finding difficult ‘in obtaining a Police clearance’,” Mr Ssemujju said.
He said the minister promised to prevail over police, especially Mugyenyi, to issue a reply.
“I telephoned him again a day later on Friday November 1st and this time Obiga sounded powerless. He was now advising me to go to Naguru to speak to the IGP and Asuman Mugyenyi. Eventually I used a different telephone line and this time Mugyenyi picked it. He told me he had issued a reply and deposited it with the Police registry,” Mr Ssemujju said.
“That, in his reply which I have not received to date, he raised two issues; First, that FDC presented no evidence that it had paid Namboole. Two, that a seminar cannot be held in an open space. It must be held indoors. When I asked him under which law, he threatened to switch me off and indeed he did,” he added.
He explained that on Monday November 4, delegates invited to the seminar started arriving at 9am but when they found all roads leading to Mandela Stadium blocked by Police, he advised them to go to the FDC office in Kireka.“Meanwhile Police began to erect impromptu roadblocks stopping especially taxis and removing everybody putting an FDC blue T-shirt. When the FDC President Eng. Hon. Patrick Oboi Amuriat arrived at the Kireka office, he advised us to shift the seminar to Najjanankumbi, FDC headquarters. We jumped into our vehicles and began the journey to Najjanankumbi,” Mr Ssemujju said.
He said they were intercepted by Police at Banda who started to indiscriminately fire teargas canisters at them.
“They also sprinkled us with water from one of their trucks. The high pressured water from the truck was deliberately directed at FDC founding President Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye. The cannon threw Dr. Besigye against the roof of his vehicle and nearly tipped him off. It is his driver who held him by the legs. The Police then turned to residents firing teargas into Farmers Market in Kireka and into St. Mary’s Primary School where candidates sitting for PLE scampered for their lives,” he said.
“Police blocked the Jinja highway and made it impossible for Dr. Besigye and all of us to proceed. They brought a breakdown vehicle and attempted to tow away Dr. Besigye and Hon. Amuriat’s vehicles. When the breakdown failed, the Policemen in a movie like savagery scene, pounced on Dr. Besigye’s vehicle, smashed its screens and sprayed him with a yet to be identified chemical. They then violently removed him and drove him to Naggalama Police Station, which they have turned into his second home,” he added.
Mr Ssemujju accused the ruling party of trying to stifle opposition activities ahead of 2021 elections.
“This is the environment under which Justice Byabakama is organizing the next general elections. According to the Electoral Commission roadmap, elections for interest groups’ councils from village to national will begin in March next year. How will political parties which are not allowed to organize even a seminar participate in these elections?” he wrote.
“The NRM Secretary General issued her party’s roadmap recently. But her Chairman is working outside it with the likes of Full Figure, Butcherman and Catherine Kusaasira. That is his and NRM’s choice. For us as FDC, we are a formal institution that wants to stick to set rules. Please allow us to do so,” he added.