8 December 2013

Uganda: Lukwago Recounts Ordeal During House 'Arrest'

The police siege of Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago's home, which ended on Wednesday, had made it almost inaccessible by outsiders.

"It is easier to access State House in Entebbe than the lord mayor's residence in Wakaliga," remarked a journalist on Monday, after failing to visit Lukwago.

"One gets checked several times and even then, they (Police) can still stop you from entering for any reason," said the journalist who had gone to find out how Lukwago was coping after a week in "preventive" detention.

The inconvenience did not spare his neighbours, who apart from multiple checks at a nearby road block also had to prove that they were residents.

"These people have no toilet facilities and they can't access the lord mayor's facilities or ours, so they resorted to defecating wherever they could, especially at night, so the whole place is smelly," said one man, identified as Muwanga.

Another recalled a scuffle near Lukwago's house that prompted police to fire teargas canisters.

"That was the worst. We were all affected and we could not even leave our homes," the neighbour said.

Lukwago was only allowed out of his home three times in 10 days. After his court victory, Lukwago was guided through a procession to his home, leading to a peaceful demonstration after successful negotiations with Kampala Metropolitan Police Commander Andrew Felix Kaweesi.

"For the first time, I bumped into Lukwago's procession with my private vehicle and I was surprised that they never abused or hurt me ... save for the abusive songs they were singing [about] President Museveni; I commend them for that," said Mariam Namayanja, a presidential secretary.

However, the following Monday Lukwago called a press conference at his home and invited MPs from Kampala district, including NRM's John Ssimbwa of Makindye East. Thereafter, Lukwago attempted to escort his lawyers beyond the gate but was stopped by the police, resulting in a scuffle.

Commanded by Alfred Muhumuza, the police blocked Lukwago from moving out of his house, prompting the mayor's supporters to riot. In the ensuring chaos, the windscreen of a police vehicle was smashed, some policemen injured and teargas canisters lobbed in the neighbourhood.

This prompted Kaweesi to send Lukwago a text message (sms).

"Gd evening sebo, now that u hve decided to have goons operating in your home as witnessed today, advice if that is the best security for you en we withdraw the police guards," the message said.

During the house incarceration, Lukwago spent his time reading newspapers from his bed, which was placed inside a tiny tent in his compound. He occasionally dozed off only to be interrupted by journalists and one of his sons playing football.

He said he had exhausted the food reserves at his home and had to rely on the charity of friends and neighbours.

"I had no money and was denied an opportunity to go to the bank or to work, this is unacceptable," he said.

Later, Muwanga Kivumbi (Butambala MP) was stopped from taking some money to Lukwago to facilitate his wife, who recently delivered a baby boy, to go to hospital. It was only on Tuesday, after Parliament intervened, that the blockade was lifted. However, the police continued to patrol Dr Besigye's home in Kasangati.

Copyright © 2013 The Observer. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.