By Harriette Onyalla
and Chris Kiwawulo
GUNFIRE rocked Kalerwe, Nsooba, Kyebando and Kanyanya city suburbs yesterday when the Police shot in the air for over one hour to disperse violent crowds protesting the delay in the repair of Gayaza Road.
One protester, who was hit by a government vehicle, later died in the hospital.
Residents complained that their businesses and livelihoods were at risk due to the dust from the dug-up road. Most shops remained closed in the past days for lack of customers.
Traffic on Gayaza Road came to a stand-still when the protesters lit bonfires and erected barricades of rocks and logs in the middle of the road, forcing motorists to resort to alternative routes.
The Police swung into action at about 11:00am, when the rowdy residents began throwing stones at a bulldozer of the contractor, Multiplex, which tried to push the stones away from the road.
The area MP, Latif Ssebagala, had just addressed the residents, in the presence of the deputy regional Police commander, Martin Muwanika, assuring them he would put pressure on the minister to speed up the repairs.
The Police retaliated by shooting in the air. However, the stoning continued as hundreds of youths fled behind the houses along the road.
â€œIt was the only alternative. Nobody was injured because we were shooting in the air,â€ said Muwanika.
Several residents including Ssebagala sustained minor injuries as they fled for their dear lives.
As the situation worsened, the security forces were reinforced by plainclothes special Police constables from Kawempe Police station.
The Police had running battles with the rioters for several hours, in which policemen and rioters beat each other using timber pulled from makeshift buildings.
Policeman Patrick Kaziba was hit by a stone while one protestor, Bashir Kayongo, sustained head injuries after being clobbered by the Police.
An unidentified demonstrator was knocked down by a government vehicle which attempted to drive through the barricade. He was given first aid at the spot but died later in Mulago Hospital.
The ministry of works blamed the contractor for the dust.
â€œThe contract says Multiplex is supposed to pour water on the road to reduce the dust. We understand the anger of the residents but by rioting they are delaying the works more,â€ said Dan Alinange, the spokesman of the Road Agency Formation Unit.
He added that the transport minister had complained to the contractor. â€œThe current works are temporary,â€ he stressed. â€œThe Kampalaâ€“Gayazaâ€“Zirobwe road should be tarmacked in a few months.â€
The residents said it is the fourth time they are protesting about the dusty road without any action taken by the authorities. They vowed to continue blocking the road until it is repaired.
Hadijjah Nalukende, a mother of five, said President Yoweri Museveni promised during his election campaign that the road would be repaired.
â€œWe have to close shops because people do not want to buy dusty things. This dust is even affecting our health and that of our children,â€ she complained.