By A. Mukose, Moses Nampala and George Bita
JINJA residents yesterday failed to view the body of former President Dr. Apollo Milton Obote after thousands of mourners who turned up at Busoga Square became rowdy. Police and other security operatives battled with the surging crowd, yelling at them to back off, but with little success. This happened soon after prayers led by retired Bishop Cyprian Bamwoze.
Commotion intensified as the crowd beat the human security shield and nearly tripped onto the casket, prompting the organisers to call-off the long-awaited viewing exercise. Security operatives had to apply reasonable force to wade through the human melee before they could whisk away the casket to the waiting Uganda Funeral Service van, ending the 10-minute battle.
The widow, Miria Obote and children who included dread-locked James Akena, looked on helplessly as confusion ensued.
The body, meant to have been in Jinja at 11:30am, arrived at 3:30pm. Curious mourners took their positions as early as 9:00am while other hung precariously on tree branches, hoping to have a glimpse of the casket in an exercise that was meant to last 90 minutes. Some residents, especially boda-boda cyclists and motorists, camped at the Nalubaale bridge by 11:00am.
However, the long wait was punctuated by Uganda Peopleâ€™s Congress (UPC) eulogies amidst mock-weeping and dancing. Others carried tree branches and Oboteâ€™s 1980 campaign posters.
As the body arrived in Jinja, residents by the roadside wiped tears that rolled freely as the hearse slowly passed-by.
On arrival in Jinja, the close to a kilometre-stretch from the town centre to Busoga square, a mammoth crowd flooded the dual carriageway and blocked traffic. By the time it arrived at Busoga square, the situation had run out of hand.
UPC regional chairperson and Bukhooli North MP Patrick Mwondha steered the crowd in motion after he announced the arrival of the casket. He had asked the crowd to get organised and start viewing the body, but order failed.
In Iganga, shops closed at 4:00pm as crowds waited for the casket to pass.