By Paul Watala
MBALE TOWN - Police in Mbale and the UPDF fired live bullets in the air and shot tear gas to disperse crowds that had turned rowdy after a group of opposition leaders was blocked from holding a rally at Mbale Sports Club on Saturday.
Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) president Gen. Mugisha Muntu and his predecessor, Dr. Kizza Besigye were embroiled in the pandemonium.
Others opposition politicians caught in the fracas were area MP Jack Wamayi, Democratic Party (DP) president Norbert Mao, MP Cecilia Ogwal, and the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Wafula Oguttu.
They were arrested and later released.
The group had planned to meet at the sports club, but were blocked by security forces before they could hold their rally.
Police said the group did not seek permission from the Inspector General of Police and Elgon region police commander, Jacob Opolot and Mbale DPC Gerald Twishime.
The meeting had been scheduled to start at 11am local time, but police personnel intervened and stopped them until they are granted official permission.
This angered the residents – mainly youths – who had convened at the venue.
Top-on-the-agenda of the meeting was a discussion on electoral reforms in preparation for the 2016 general elections. The police sealed off the facility and ordered the owner of the facility to lock the gates.
The group led by area MP Wamayi, industrial division chairperson Mansa Musa and Mbale Mayor Mutwalibu Zandya advised the opposition leaders to organize another rally at Mbale garage but police blocked them before reaching the new venue.
This angered the residents even more and they protested incessantly against the police’s actions.
UPDF soldiers loaded behind a truck ready to disperse the crowd and block the rally. PHOTO/Paul Watala
The car of Dr. Kizza Besigye was clouded with tear gas along Naboa road in Mbale town. PHOTO/Paul Watala
During this fracas, Besigye’s car was parked by the roadside.
Police pleaded with the former FDC president to leave the town, but in vain. They then shot live bullets in the air and tear gas to diffuse the crowd.
What followed were running battles between the security forces and the residents as the opposition leaders sneaked away.
Police tried to fire tear gas inside Besigye’s car but failed because the car windows were all drawn.
Later Besigye drove off towards Pallisa road with police cars hot in pursuit.
The three police vehicles filled with heavily armed officers under the command of Opolot and Twishime followed Besigye’s car up to Kamonkoli, six kilometers into Budaka district.
As they (police) drove back after seeing off Besigye, they found Mugisha Muntu addressing a crowd at Mbale Lions Club along Pallisa road and reacted swiftly to disperse the crowd.
The opposition leaders led by UPC President Olara Otunu later held a press briefing at MP Wamayi’s residence in senior quarters Wanale division in Mbale municipality shortly after Police released their colleagues who had been detained at Mbale central police station.
The leaders blamed police for inciting the public by firing tear gas into people’s shops, banks, private cars, drug shops and clinics.