Uganda: Did Security Misread Museveni Orders?

Security personnel and some government officials have come under fire for misinterpreting the presidential directives on measures to combat coronavirus, which saw people brutalised.

The security personnel started beating up people on streets on Thursday, a day after President Museveni suspended public transport, restricted private transport and ordered closure of markets except those selling foodstuffs.

Whereas the President directed all non-food shops in the markets to close on March 25, security officers were seen closing even arcades and other shops outside the market places the following day.

Officers, especially the Local Defence Units (LDUs), also beat up many people.

Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo on his Twitter handle said the security officers misunderstood the directives. He apologised to all those who were beaten.

"This was not Museveni's directive. I have been in contact with concerned authorities. The directive was misunderstood by some lower commanders. Consultations are under way to ensure incidences like this does not reoccur, apologies," Mr Opondo said on his Twitter handle.

He added: "Yesterday was the first day of enforcement of measures that affected huge public. Mistakes are bound to happen. New guidelines have been issued including which activities are banned so we expect better command and control."

The minister of Trade, Ms Amelia Kyambadde, has also warned LDUs to desist from beating people and closing shops.

"Why should you beat citizens? This goes to LDUs who were beating people, enforcement does not mean beating people and this must stop," Ms Kyambadde said.

"There has been a misinterpretation of President Museveni's directives in some areas which I would like to rectify. Shops which are not within food markets should not be closed except lock-ups. Salon, arcades, depots selling alcohol must be left to operate," Ms Kyambadde said.

She also said while the President ordered the closure of only bars and night clubs, police were seen closing even depots and shops selling alcohol.

To date, all arcades in Kampala city, some shops outside markets remain closed after they were forced to shut down by security officers.

One of the traders at Namaganda Plaza, who identified herself only as Ms Nakinto, said they found their arcade closed and had to go back home.

"The people who usually open and close the arcades daily said they will not open the arcade until further notice," Ms Nakinto said.

She, however, said this has saved them transport and walking to work since the public means have since been banned.

Army, police respond

The deputy defence spokesperson, Lt Col Deo Akiiki, said w hereas some individual mistakes occurred, their action on that day was intelligence guided to avert suspected planned city chaos. "Whereas the directives on coronavirus exist, the security forces continue with other routine activities of ensuring peace and security.

In certain cases, therefore, temporal additional measures may come up to address unique security situations," Mr Akiiki, adding that the situation has been handled and vendors have returned to the street to sell foodstuff.

Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango reiterated Lt Col Akiiki's view.

He advised the public to cooperate with security forces for the good of the country.

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