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Uganda President Urged to Respect Wishes of Kampala Residents

  • Peter Clottey

FILE - Uganda's main opposition leader Kizza Besigye, center, is arrested by police and thrown into the back of a blacked-out police van which whisked him away and was later seen at a rural police station, outside his home in Kasangati, Uganda, Feb. 22, 2016.

FILE - Uganda's main opposition leader Kizza Besigye, center, is arrested by police and thrown into the back of a blacked-out police van which whisked him away and was later seen at a rural police station, outside his home in Kasangati, Uganda, Feb. 22, 2016.

The lord mayor of Uganda’s capital, Kampala, says his re-election sends a strong message to President Yoweri Museveni that the will of the people is supreme, and he warned that the president and his ruling National Resistance Movement should stop frustrating residents of the city who want their needs and aspirations met.

The electoral commission declared Erias Lukwago re-elected with 82 percent of the total votes cast, while his main challenger, Daniel Kazibwe of the NRM, came in a distant second with about 20 percent.

Lukwago’s first term was not without drama following his not-so-friendly relations with Jennifer Musisi, the executive director of the Kampala City Council Authority.

This led to Lukwago’s impeachment after members of the KCCA accused him of abuse of office, misconduct and incompetence. A court later declared his impeachment illegal, although another court supported his removal from office. He was subsequently barred from entering his office in City Hall following his controversial impeachment.

During campaigns ahead of the Feb. 18 general election, Museveni said he supported Lukwago’s impeachment. Local media quoted Museveni as saying he forced Lukwago out of office.

“I chased Lukwago. He had failed. I used force to chase him. Rats had become a problem, rats would even eat roads. That Kafumbe-Mukasa road, I would send money but the road would not be constructed. I got Musisi like a drug to kill the rats in Kampala, but the drug might be very tough,” Museveni said.

Lukwago says his second-term focus will be not to compromise on accountability and corruption, adding that Kampala residents didn’t vote for him to fight personal wars.

“[The election] sends a very powerful message to President Museveni and his [team] that the will of the people is supreme. … For the last five years he has refused to recognize that the people of Kampala chose Lukwago as their Lord Mayor, and he had made it difficult for me to receive the instruments of power, so that I can deliver on the promises I made to the people of Kampala,” said Lukwago.

Lukwago expressed concern about the ongoing tensions in the city following the just-ended presidential and parliamentary elections in which there was a heavy deployment of police and security operatives, particularly in Kampala and its suburbs. Lukwago says the electoral commission failed to administer a credible general election, despite the insistence by the chairman of the electoral body that the polls were transparent, free and fair.

“Many Ugandans are disenchanted, they are disillusioned, it was not a free and fair election. It was just a mockery of democracy. The mood now is somber, people are being suppressed and you will find police and other security agencies are roaming the streets. All of us, the political actors, are being kept under 24-hour surveillance, and the main opposition candidate Dr. Kizza Besigye is being kept under house arrest,” Lukwago said.

But supporters of NRM say Lukwago, Besigye and other opposition partisans are to blame for the tense situation in the country by creating instability. They accuse the opposition parties of refusing to accept the outcome of the presidential vote, which Museveni won.

The inspector general of police, Kale Kayihura, blames Besigye for the opposition leader’s frequent arrest following the conclusion of the presidential vote. Local media quoted Kayihura as saying, “The responsibility for the actions that police [have] taken involving … Besigye during, and after, the campaigns lies squarely on his shoulders and that of his unruly and [ill-disciplined] supporters.”

Lukwago disagreed with the assessment of the IGP.

“That is a very unfortunate statement to come from the IGP because he knows for sure that Dr. Kizza Besigye and I, other political actors in the opposition, we are not at all responsible for the situation pertaining in the country right now. There is nothing they can point to, to say this is what Dr. Besigye is trying to do of inciting violence because as at now they have not attempted to charge Dr. Besigye or any other opposition leader with any offense,” Lukwago said.

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