The weekend was calm in Kampala after violent riots rocked Uganda’s capital late last week.
According to figures released yesterday, the death toll has mounted to 21 in a conflict that pitted government forces against members of the Buganda ethnic group who are loyal to one of Uganda’s traditional kingdoms. At least 82 more were injured.
Violence erupted last Thursday, when the Ugandan police prevented a representative of the Buganda king from traveling to a region near the capital citing security concerns. In response to what was perceived as harassment and disrespect toward the Buganda royal court, Buganda loyalists rioted. In the mayhem that ensued, opportunistic looters also joined in, according to witnesses interviewed by the New York Times.
As Enough’s new Uganda-based field researcher, Ledio Cakaj, reported:
The Ugandan police response to the riots was shockingly strong-handed. The use of live ammunition by the police was certainly a factor in the great number of deaths and injuries caused, as most people were killed by stray bullets. Recognizing this, the Inspector General of Ugandan Police, Major General Kale Kayihura, stated in a press conference on Saturday that he had ordered the police to stop using live bullets against rioters.
But while the violence may have subsided for now, there’s talk of the broader political discontent that may be fueling the outbreak. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who rose to power more than 20 years ago, has had a particularly rocky relationship with the Buganda recently. As the NYTimes’ Jeffrey Gettleman reports:
Mr. Museveni recently accused Buganda of receiving foreign financing for a hate campaign and called on the king “to distance himself from these Judases.”
Mr. Museveni, who rose to power as one of Africa’s toughest guerrilla fighters, also said, “We have fought many wars and we shall win this one.”
Watch for more on this story from Ledio later this week.