Uganda: How Security Has Reacted to Bobi Wine's Call for Protests

Bobi Wine in a police van after his arrest in Luuka District on November 18, 2020.

Since the National Unity Platform (NUP) party leader Robert Kyagulanyi, alias Bobi Wine, called for demonstrations in protest of the Electoral Commission (EC) declaration of Mr Yoweri Museveni as the winner of the January 14 presidential elections, security agencies have stepped up operations to ensure no one heeds his call.

Disruption of any groups that might heed Mr Kyagulanyi's call has been key in the security agencies strategies.

Since early this week, the joint security team has been combing city suburbs, carrying out random arrests of people who converge even in very small groups, especially those suspected to be Mr Kyagulanyi's supporters, in the community to discuss politics.

Young people with dreadlocks and tattoos who converge in groups have been targeted with arrests on being suspected criminals and taken to police stations.

Those found with items with NUP symbols are held on charges of being suspected criminals to enable security agencies to interrogate them further.

So far, 200 youth have been arrested on allegations of being in possession of suspected stolen property, illicit drugs and on traffic-related offences in different parts of the city.

Kampala Metropolitan Police spokesperson Patrick Onyango denied that the arrests are politically-motivated.

"Our operations are targeting only criminals who had started robbing in the city. We have intelligence reports that Opposition people are planning to strategically deploy their supporters in different parts of the city to incite people to cause chaos. We are monitoring them and we have arrested at least 40 of them," Mr Onyango said.

The security operations come at the time when there is rising violent crimes, especially robberies involving boda boda operators and gangs, on several city roads and neighbourhoods.

The security operations to get rid of such criminals have also been used to target or silence Mr Kyagulanyi's supporters, who have no known employment or dealing in jobs that many people considered cover for crime.

On Thursday, several youth were arrested in Masajja, Makindye-Sabagabo Sub-county, Wakiso District.

According to police, the suspects were accused of being part of the conmen who have reportedly been calling unsuspecting members of the public duping them that they have won prizes before asking them to send money for transport to deliver the items.

However, none of the suspects was specifically charged with the offence of obtaining money by false pretences, but police held them on illegal possession of government stores (red berets), marijuana and participating in a robbery case at unnamed place in which a woman only identified as Nagasha allegedly lost $30,000 (Shs110m) on March 7.

Police sources allege that these operations are led by small teams of Special Forces Command (SFC) personnel. They also interrogate suspects at police stations.

The security agencies have intensified day and night joint foot patrols consisting of soldiers, Local Defence Unit (LDU) personnel and police officers in the suburbs to ensure NUP posters, symbols and music systems promoting Mr Kyagulanyi are removed or confiscated.

The foot patrols are ensuring that NUP supporters and symbols aren't visible in the public. They are also ordering cyclists and drivers who have decorations of Opposition symbols to remove them.

Hotspots

The security agencies have also used a tactic of occupying and dominating areas that they suspect are protests hotspots.

Kisekka Market, Bwaise, Makindye, Nansana and Wandegeya had the biggest deployment of armed security personnel patrolling since the November 18 and 19 protests in Kampala City.

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