Riots broke out late last week in Uganda’s capital city, leaving at least 21 dead. The riots in Kampala began after police refused to allow a representative of the Buganda kingdom’s tribal leader to travel out of the area. The Baganda tribe has clashed with police and President Yoweri Museveni’s government over power and land rights.
Several radio stations were shut down following the outbreak of violence. Watch a video exploring the riots from Kenyan television channel NTV:
The real power of tweeting came to me during the last few days of rioting we’ve had in Kampala. [...]
I went out to the office and was driving in eerily quiet streets (it’s just a ten minute drive) and was standing in the office and all of a sudden heard a rat ta tat tat. No one else really blinked, so I was like, hmm, OK, my imagination. Second time I heard the sound, I was like, umm, guys, what’s that? Answer: Police firing live rounds into crowds to disperse them. [...]
I came home and tweeted about it. Just one message. And all of a sudden, got a response from someone I didn’t know. How @UgInsomniac found my tweet, was a mystery to me but then I saw the hash tag. I did a search on Kampala on twitter and was plugged in BIG time to everything. I spent the next day and a half glued to twitter and watched as the Kampala stories came flooding in.
It was incredible. There has been a media blackout and the only way for me and lots of others, including major newspapers to follow what was going on was through twitter. [...] And it’s not that it was just news flowing in. It was about the community of news and the support I felt from everyone who was tweeting. We were all in it together.
Blogger “Sarah” at “The Malans in Uganda” described the scene on Friday:
I was at the office this morning. I had an interview scheduled so I had to go. While I was interviewing the guy, shots were ringing out and police cars were hurtling up and down the roads, sirens blaring. The poor guy was terrified!!!! Not sure if it was the interview or the fact that he had to make his way back home through all the problem areas.
A blogger at “Paradox Uganda” explores the background of the violence and muses about the future:
My reading of the president is that he has been decidedly anti-tribal, making every effort to unify the sense of identity of his people. But he’s also accused of favoring his own people, the Banyankole.
The reaction of these few uncertain days has revealed that the latent tribalism is close to the surface, ready to blow. There are some disturbing parallels to Kenya in 2008, or Rwanda in 1994, though nothing here has happened on those scales yet. One big difference is that Uganda has an intact and functional government and military who are acting to stop rather than increase violence. The root issue seems to be the insecurity of living too close to the edge of survival, the nagging doubt that the world just may require that one kill or be killed, grab or go without.
Blogger “Rhino” expresses concern for the country’s future, asking fellow citizens to “wake up to reality”:
[O]ur greatest enemy is apathy. There is a lot of it out there and it saddens me. When the riots were underway, I took a breather from my duties as a citizen journalist and had a chat with my friends. I could not believe how unconcerned they all were. It seemed as if the chaos did not have anything to do with them. I told them that this violence represented far bigger concerns that just Mengo and the government. I told them that there is a lot of bitterness out there and any self respecting citizen should pay attention. There were reports that some people were being targeted because they had “long noses” which meant that they hailed from lands other than Buganda. The tribal and religious divisions among us threaten to lead to chaotic times not dissimilar to those of ages past and there is no doubt that the government has enacted policies that have greatly exacerbated this problem. It has become clear that fragmentation of the country has served little else than prop up the ruling party and benefit the well connected while the ordinary Ugandan slips further into poverty and desperation. We must all wake up to reality; we can no longer afford to be indifferent. Even those of you who have no desire to engage in partisan politics should realise that it is up to us the people to fix our nation. Our leaders can only do so much if each one of us does not give to the other the very rights we reserve for ourselves. People have died, let their lives not go unnoticed; let us learn from these things. Let us remember the dead.
A blogger at “Gay Uganda” writes that though peace has returned, tensions remain:
Peace, calm has returned to Kampala.
Oh, I dont doubt that the armoured personell carriers (mambas) are still patrolling the city. I dont doubt that there are thousands of plain clothes intelligence people mingling with the cautious crowds. They are there. And we know it, and so we have to be cautious. [...]
And the Baganda? Bitterness. Angered, bitter.
Blogger “Rogue King” writes that the peace is much too fragile:
I also believe that it is too early to say life is back to normal. It’s a very delicate standoff, and any wrong move by either side could spark off fresh (and possibly worse) violence.
As always, we can only hold our breath and wait.
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