KAMPALA — Kampala city councilors have voted to dismiss the city's mayor, a major opposition figure, sparking protests and accusations of interference from the president.
Monday’s vote of impeachment follows a judgment by a government tribunal last week, in which then-mayor Erias Lukwago was found guilty of abuse of office, incompetence and misconduct.
Lukwago is a prominent opposition figure and high-profile opponent of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. News of his removal Monday led to pockets of protest in Kampala, as police fired tear gas and a downtown market was closed.
Lukwago’s political ally, opposition leader Kizza Besigye, has accused President Museveni of trying to get rid of Lukwago in order to take control of the capital city. Critics of the president, who has been in power since 1986, have accused him of becoming increasingly autocratic in recent years.
Kampala’s deputy mayor Sulaiman Kidandala, who sits on the council, told a local television station on Monday that the impeachment was undemocratic.
He said, “We strongly believe the process going on is against the principles and tenants of democracy. We are trying to overturn the will and the wish of the people of Kampala who voted for the Lord Mayor overwhelmingly.”
But Peter Kaujju, a spokesman for the Kampala Capital City Authority, said he was unaware of any political influence involved in the decision to impeach. He said the process, which has been underway since May, stemmed from dissatisfaction with Lukwago’s performance as mayor.
Lukwago has been arrested several times in recent years for his involvement in opposition demonstrations. The charges against him included disobeying directives and encouraging the public to withhold taxes.