By Jeff Andrew Lule, Andrew Ssenyonga and Steven Candia
A day after Government outlawed the Activists for Change (A4C) opposition pressure group, Col. Kizza Besigye and his colleagues found themselves with a sparse crowd at a rally which they held at Kololo Independence Grounds in Kampala on Thursday.
The rally which was supposed to begin at around midday, started at 3.20pm with about 300 people occupying about three percent of the grounds.
The same venue normally fills up to capacity on other political rallies.
The youth trickled in one by one from around midday holding placards with some carrying bottles of mineral water, apparently in preparation for teargas.
The placards they were carrying had messages like; “Stop torturing journalists”, “Amin is better than M7”, “Two year old baby Juliana was shot by police”, “I will walk until I walk to freedom”, among others.
The group national coordinator, Mathias Mpuuga attributed the low turn up to uncoordinated communication and heavy deployment by Police.
Mpuuga also alleged that their public address system was at first blocked by police thus delaying the function.
He claimed Police spokespersons Judith Nabakooba and Ibin Ssenkumbi informed the public that the rally had been cancelled following the Attorney General, Peter Nyombi’s ‘misleading statement of banning A4C’.
“The Kampala Metropolitan boss, Andrew Kaweesi allowed us to hold the rally but these people came with contradictory statements. This created fear among our people and many did not show up. But we are happy for this despite a small number,” he said.
All boda boda riders who attempted to access the grounds were blocked.
Only those on foot and vehicles were allowed to access the grounds through Lugogo by-pass. All other roads leading to the grounds were sealed off by police.
People were subject to thorough check-up by Police and sniffer dogs.
Security at the grounds was overseen by Kaweesi and the operations chief, Grace Turyagumanawe. Kaweesi said boda bodas were not allowed to access the venue.
He said they allowed the group as individuals like other Ugandans who wanted to express their views through a gathering but not A4C.
“This is the last time we are allowing such a rally. We allowed them as individuals because the place was gazetted for protests in this period of the Inter Parliamentary Union,” he noted.
Kaweesi said A4C was ‘dead and buried’ because it is illegal.
‘Activism cannot be banned’
However, while addressing the rally, Mpuuga said A4C is not a registered organization but a group of people who unite for a cause, insisting that it cannot be banned.
Besigye, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) leader said A4C can be banned but not activism. He said it is just a name and idea.
He said if the name is banned it cannot stop characters from moving on with their activities.
Besigye said they will not be intimidated since it is their constitutional right to express their views.
“This question of banning A4C activities is a futile attempt. You can ban a name but not personalities like Besigye and others,” the FDC head remarked.
He wondered why government had up to-date never banned Kibwetere’s organizations where thousands of innocent Ugandans were massacred.
“Banned organizations are the ones that have liberated other nations, like ANC in South Africa. I think we should be proud of this.” Besigye noted.
Others who attended included Nandala Mafabi (leader of opposition), Erias Lukwago (Kampala Lord Mayor), Mubarak Munyagwa (Kawempe Mayor), Ibrahim Semujju (Kyadondo East), Betty Namboze (Mukono Municipality) and Ingrid Turinawe (FDC women league leader).
Vicent Ssewungu (Kalungu East), Brenda Nabukenya (Luwero woman MP), Nabilah Ssempala (Woman MP Kampala) were also in attendance.