Masaka Police today arrested five Uganda Young Democrats (UYD) activists after they unsuccessfully tried to hold a birthday party for President Museveni.
Although Museveni says he is 68 years old, the youths insist he was born on December 4, 1937, and is, therefore 75 years old. According to the Constitution, people above 75 cannot run for president.
The birthday party was initially due to be held at the Mayor's gardens in Masaka, but by daybreak today, the Police had cordoned off the area. The defiant youths, who had ignored warnings from Southern Region Police Commander Simon Peter Wafana to cancel the event, relocated to the busy Nyendo market, where they engaged the police in running battles.
Wafana had told The Observer the youth would be blocked from "mocking" the head of state.
"If he wants to celebrate his birthday party, I think it would be his political party [NRM] or his family to organize the party not some group from the opposition," Wafana said.
But UYD Secretary General Hakim Kizza told us that as concerned Ugandans, they realized that Museveni's family was too busy to organize a birthday party for him.
"Maama Janet has no time to organize a party for her husband because she has a demanding office as a minister for Karamoja and in addition, the OPM scandals are bothering her too much. Her son, [Brig Kainerugaba] Muhoozi is also busy with state duties," Kizza said.
Two years ago, UYD officials, then led by Luweero Woman MP Brenda Nabukenya, organized a similar function at the Constitution square in Kampala, which the police also foiled. Eyewitnesses said during the Masaka showdown today, youth pelted the police with stones, smashing the windscreen of a police van, UP 1931, while the police shot back with tear gas.
The van was carrying the force's filming crew (Evidence Gathering Team). Those arrested include UYD Vice Chairman Moses Bigirwa, Wakiso Coordinator David Sserunjogi, UYD Secretary for Masaka John Baptist Ntuuwa, and activists Yasin Ssemwogerere and Ismail Kayima.
According to Southern Region Police Spokesman Noah Sserunjogi, the five face charges of participating in a riot, malicious damage and inciting violence.
The Police also impounded a Toyota Ipsum car UAP 781W, belonging to the UYD President Gerald Siranda. The UYD has said the birthday celebrations are their effort to remind Ugandans of Museveni's impending retirement, since according to them, he would be ineligible to run for the presidency in 2016.
The activists had a birthday cake decorated in DP colours but with yellow wordings congratulating Museveni on his 75th birthday. It was also decorated with candles. They also had wrapped ripe bananas, maize, grasshoppers and honey as gifts for the President.