By Gerald Tenywa,
and Steven Candia
IT was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration against plans to axe parts of Mabira Forest for sugarcane production. But the procession turned nasty when charged crowds, carrying placards with slogans like â€˜Asians should goâ€™ and â€˜For one tree cut, five Indians deadâ€™, started attacking Asians and their property, stoning one Asian to death, smashing the Hindu Temple and setting ablaze a trailer.
Accounts on how the violence started differ. Initially, the protestors, led by opposition MPs Betty Kamya, Jimmy Akena, Hussein Kyanjo and Beatrice Atim, became angry when the Police blocked them from marching unto Kampala Road.
The previous day, Police chief Kale Kayihura had given permission for the demonstration but had mapped out a route, leading from the Railway Station through Nasser Road to
The anti-riot Police, which had sealed off Kampala Road, was pelted with stones and it responded with teargas. The stand-off ended when Lira MP Jimmy Akena calmed the crowds and led them through the designated route.
But before reaching Clock Tower, some demonstrators grabbed an Indian, passing by on a motorcycle, and beat him up. The victim managed to escape but his scooter was set ablaze. The crowd ran amok when another Asian drove through the crowd with his car, hitting two children who were part of the Royal brass band at the head of the procession.
The man sped off amid a barrage of stones. Possibly the same vehicle drove over Radio One journalist Simon Kaggwa. He was dragged away by colleagues. Devang Rawal, a sales representative of Translink Uganda, who approached Clock Tower from the opposite direction on a boda boda, took the full wrath of the crowd. He was stoned to death.
Demonstrators also smashed the windows of the Hindu Temple, with an estimated 40 Asians trapped inside and attempted to burn down the mosque near Shoprite. A trailer loaded with sugar, belonging to Tom Mugenga, a city tycoon with links to prominent Asians, was stopped and set ablaze. The driver fled.
Anti-riot Police, armed with shields and rifles, had trouble controlling the thousands of rioters who had dispersed all over Nakasero and Entebbe Road. They used teargas and water cannons wherever the demonstrators were blocking roads or throwing stones.
Several Asians, including the owner of Landis Limited, R.G. Patel and his wife, were rescued by the Police. Patel was later admitted in Kampala International Hospital.
Hundreds of other Asians fled to the Central Police Station for protection.
According to the Police, eight people were wounded and a Bata shop was looted.
â€œThe situation in the city is bad. The demonstrators have turned violent but we are trying to contain the situation. We have deployed heavily,â€ said Kampala Police spokesperson Simeo Nsubuga on phone from the Hindu temple.
In the chaos, a guard of a private security firm, who was guarding a shop on Luwum Street, shot dead two rioters who allegedly tried to attack him. The dead were identified as Lawrence Semyalo Lubega and Dickson Habinmwino. The Police arrested the guard for further investigations.
â€œThe man who died near Nakasero market was shot dead by a security guard attached to Uganda Securicor.
However, we are still investigating the second victimâ€™s death,â€ Ochom said.
By early afternoon, the Military Police reinforced the anti-riot Police, with more than five mambas (armoured vehicles) patrolling the city.
The Police arrested 20 rioters. Business in the city was brought to a standstill from early morning till late afternoon.
Shops and banks were closed and several Asian businessmen went into hiding. By press time, calm had returned to the city, with very few vehicles moving. Most of the taxi operators had halted their services, for fear of being attacked.