A hotly contested by-election in Northern Uganda turned violent Monday evening, when unknown assailants shot a driver on the opposition side. A window in President Yoweri Museveni’s car was smashed in the chaos. Police have since arrested two journalists and dozens of opposition supporters, an act that human rights groups are calling an abuse of power.
Violence rocked the Arua district of Northern Uganda on Monday as President Yoweri Museveni and legislator Robert Kyagulanyi, commonly known as Bobi Wine, campaigned for candidates in the by-election.
The chaos erupted just after candidates and their supporters were heading back to their offices and homes after campaigning.
Shortly after, Kyagulanyi tweeted, “Police have shot my driver dead thinking they've shot at me. My hotel is now cordoned off by police and Special Forces Command.”
The Special Forces Command protects the president.
Presidential spokesman Don Wanyama also tweeted, posting photos of Museveni’s armored car with the hind window completely smashed. The spokesman said the president’s car had been attacked by opposition supporters.
Museveni was said to be uninjured.
Speaking Tuesday, police spokesperson Emilian Kayima blamed opposition legislators for attacking the president’s car.
“Supporters of candidate Kasiano Wadri with imported support groups led by members of parliament Robert Kyagulani, Francis Zaake, Paul Mwiru, Gerald Karuhanga and former MP Michael Mabike obstructed and violently attacked the presidential motorcade during which one of the vehicles bearing the presidential coat of arms had its windscreen smashed,” said Kayima.
There was no immediate comment from the lawmakers, who remained in police custody.
Kayima said a total of 34 people have been arrested, including journalists Herbert Zziwa and Muwanga Ronald, who were reporting on Tuesday’s violence. Police have charged the two with inciting violence and malicious damage.
Robert Sempala, the national coordinator of the Human Rights Network for Journalists, decried the arrests.
“This is certainly abuse of power. Its abuse of office. It is acting with impunity. But we also think that it points to an election that is certainly riddled with injustice or that is likely to be not free and not fair,” he said.
The hotly contested seat in Arua fell vacant after the assassination of Arua municipality legislator Ibrahim Abiriga in June. Twelve candidates are vying to replace him.
Some Ugandans are asking why Bobi Wine’s driver, Yasin Kawuma, was shot and killed.
“The security owes an explanation to Ugandans in respect to the circumstances under which this innocent young man was shot dead," said Expedito Sebayiga, a resident of Arua. "Am convinced that, he had parked. And being that he was just sitting in the vehicle, for what reason was such a person shot?”
The by-election is set for Wednesday, with the ruling National Resistance Movement party led by Museveni fighting to retain the seat.