Recent elections held in the districts of; Jinja, Arua and Bugiri registered incidents of election violence, with Arua recording the worst cases pre-election, D-day and post-election. The Arua municipality MP seat fell vacant after the gruesome murder of Hon. Ibrahim Abiriga in June 2018.
The final day of campaigning in Arua was epic. All political bigwigs on either side of political divide; NRM Party Chairman and President of Uganda, Yoweri K Museveni, opposition leading light Kiiza Besigye, and one threatening to take the shine -Kyadondo East MP Hon Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu aka Bobi Wine among others on the last stretch making a case for their preferred candidate.
The ensuing energy from rival camps, brewed provocations, and later a brawl that recorded some of the worst cases of torture and human rights abuses ever witnessed in an election exercise in the country.
The stretch marks of a highly flammable process had quite revealed early. The Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda CCEDU, an election observer body was suspended by Electoral Commission on 4th July 2018 – weeks before the Arua municipality by-election. ‘What was government hiding?” some would ask.
By the time the storm had withered , thirty-three people including Members of Parliament had been arrested by security forces. Later, these were charged with treason for allegedly attempting to harm the president of Uganda following allegations of the President’s convoy being pelted with stones by supporters of the opposition.
The suspects appeared in court in a helpless health state. Notable MPs, and other members of public were seen with grievous bodily injuries allegedly resulting out of torture while in custody of security agencies.
30-year-old Micheal Abiriga is one of the victims that escaped death narrowly after he was shot in the chest.
Andrew Natumanya, an official photographer of Kyadondo East MP Hon Robert Kyagulanyi shares his ordeal in the Arua fracas.
As he recounts, he points out a statement made by the honorable Kyagulanyi at the final rally in Arua that could have sparked off the events that followed.
In various parts of the country and abroad, streets had taken on popular anti regime response over the treatment of legislators and citizens in Arua.
The Force responded with force.
The fourth estate not spared
Yet to be confirmed reports indicate, five people lost their lives in the election-related violence around the Arua Municipality by-election held on 15th August 2018. Yasin Kawuma, the driver of Hon Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine, was the first victim, shot dead in his boss’s pickup truck two days to the election in Arua Municipality.
Tracing the past, perhaps predicts a clear view of what was to happen. On the eve of the burial of the slain Arua MP Ibrahim Abiriga, the deceased MP was highlight of a burial that defied traditional custom.
During a press conference at Foundation for Human Rights Initiative, Civil society organizations condemned the torture of the Arua by Election victims.
The head of state wasn’t all too impressed. In his official social media handles, he attacked the police blaming the scuffle on weak management.
The president also warned human rights organizations and referred to them as agents of imperialists’ interests.
Civil Society Organs however disagree.
President Museveni recently in a response to the speaker of parliament, Kadaga’s letter over torture meted to MPs and civilians by the army recently; praised the army and also revealed that he ordered the UPDF in what he termed as to “protect people and property” of Arua.
Questions on how country can conduct herself better in election exercises were posed.
Early this year, CCEDU Coordinator Crispin Kaheru wrote to the president calling for electoral reforms against the backdrop of the same recommendations from Supreme court.
CCEDU Coordinator Mr. Crispy Kaheru has decried the recent increase in post election violence in Uganda.
Analysts argue that beyond the legislative tier of reforms, public civic education is equally crucial as a measure to sustain values like democracy, justice and peace in electoral practices.