Return of tear gas: Police-NUP clash evokes memories of 2021 violence

On Wednesday, police used tear gas to prevent the president of the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP), Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, also known as Bobi Wine, from entering Kamuli district.

The opposition figure planned to hold a rally as part of his nationwide mobilization tour for the 2026 general elections.

Security forces intercepted Bobi Wine’s convoy at Buwolero Village in Buwenge Sub-County, Jinja District and dispersed supporters following him.

Bobi Wine had left for Kamuli from the NUP party headquarters in Makerere Kavule, Kampala, in the company of the party’s general secretary, David Lewis Rubongoya, the vice-president for northern Uganda, Dr Lina Zedriga, the Mityana Municipality MP, Francis Zaake, among other party leaders.

Before embarking on the trip, Bobi Wine told reporters that the mobilization tour was legal and that they did not foresee any police interference as there was no formal notice from the police to stop their activities.

“We know that everything we are doing is within the law just like other political parties. We have seen other political parties move. Therefore, we believe that as long as we do everything within the law, there is no problem and we believe that the police will not violate the law,” he said.

However, riot police repeatedly fired tear gas at his convoy in several cities to disperse his supporters.

Police intervention

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At the Nile Bridge in Jinja, police detained Kyagulanyi and his large group of followers. A standoff ensued that ended when police used tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Police used tear gas to disperse Bobi’s supporters.

Kyagulanyi was allowed to cross the bridge without crowds of supporters.

However, he was not allowed to reach the spot in Kamuli as the police blocked the road with their truck, forcing him to make a U-turn.

The former presidential candidate condemned the police actions and noted that, despite the riots, his followers acted with the utmost restraint and never became violent.

“They detained us twice, tear gassed us and shot us. We did not respond with violence. I also want to take this opportunity to encourage all our followers and members to maintain peace and discipline. Let the police and military be ashamed. Don’t return violence. Let us show the difference between the peaceful and the violent,” he said.

The incident evoked memories of the 2021 election violence, in which dozens of people lost their lives in clashes with security forces.

It also raises the possibility of a prolonged conflict between the NUP and the armed forces as the country prepares for the 2026 presidential election.

The police speak

Police spokesperson Fred Enanga said on Monday that the police agency had not given the green light to the NUP’s national mobilization exercise.

Police say Bobi moves with large crowds of followers, disrupting traffic and paralyzing businesses.

“We had prior credible intelligence that members of the National Unity Platform had planned a mobilization tour in Kamuli Municipality,” Busoga North police spokesman Mike Kasadha said.

“While waiting for the expected guests, a group of people attempted to hold illegal demonstrations, forcing us to disperse them and eventually arrest ten suspects, restoring order,” he noted.

Kasadha said the NUP’s mobilization activities were suspended due to non-compliance with established guidelines, leading to “public disorder, traffic disruption, loss of business, malicious damage to property and dangerous driving causing deaths and injuries, among others.” ”.

Opposition Leader in Parliament and Nakawa West MP Joel Ssenyonyi accused security forces of applying double standards.

“We saw Muhoozi moving, and for him it is illegal because he is a serving military officer, our colleagues from other political parties are moving, and that is how it should be. “Why is the State so afraid of the NUP?” Ssenyonyi asked.

Kasadha said that while NUP leaders “defiantly continued to mobilize and lead processions on the road to Kamuli, their leader, Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi; Honorable. Joel Ssenyonyi, Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Hon. Shamim Malende, Member of Parliament from Kampala and a riotous and disorderly crowd were intercepted and proportionately dispersed between the Kamuli border and Jinja district before they turned around and returned.”

He further said that the “suspension of mobilization activities continues until NUP leaders comply with police directives.”

Police arrested 10 suspects for inciting violence.

“These were part of the team that had defiantly organized the political activity,” Kasadha said.

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