Mao, Muntu, Tumukunde, Katumba and Wamala have suspended campaigns over the arrest of NUP Presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi.
At least five Presidential candidates have announced the suspension of their campaigns following failure to release fellow Presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine of the National Unity Platform (NUP) .
Kyagulanyi and Amuriat were arrested on Wednesday from Luuka in eastern Uganda and Gulu in northern Uganda respectively, however Amuriat was later relseased.
Now Nobert Mao of the Democratic Party, Gen. Mugisha Muntu of the Alliance for National Transformation (ANT), independent presidential candidates Lt. Gen. Henry Tumukunde, John Katumba and Willy Mayambala have suspended their campaigns and called for the immediate release of Robert Kyagulanyi.
Kyagulanyi was arrested for allegedly flouting the coronavirus disease standard operating procedures (SOPs).
This sparked off spontaneous protests across the country in Masaka, Hoima, Gulu, Luweero, Kampala, Tororo and other districts.
In Kampala, the rioters lit tyres in the middle of roads around Kisekka market, Nabugabo Lane, Nasser road, Nkrumah, City Square, Bombo road and Kampala road.
The riots also extended to other suburbs of Nansana, Natete, Kireka, Gayaza, prompting police backed by anti-riot police, military and Local Defence Units (LDUs) to fire teargas and live bullets to disperse the protesters, leaving at least 4 people dead and 38 others injured.
The protests continued today Thursday as well, with military and police forced to deploy heavily in most Kampala surburbs.
Reaction from fellow Presidential aspirants
Muntu announced the decision to suspend campaigns on Wednesday while meeting supporters in Gonna, Butambala and Mpigi districts.
Muntu said that his party has suspended the campaign tours until further notice. The former commander of defence forces (CDF) was on Thursday scheduled to campaign in Mubende, Mityana and Kassanda and on Friday in Kyankwanzi and Kiboga.
“Unfortunately we have been operating in an abnormal situation and today the situation has become extra abnormal because one of the presidential candidates Hon. Kyagulanyi has been arrested and we understand that a number of people have been shot,” said Muntu in part.
He added that it doesn’t make sense to have presidential candidates who have been fully nominated to campaign in a period of 60 days but only for the regime to use terror upon them.
“The regime needs to know that we are dealing with a very delicate situation in this country. They should really stop being reckless because you can do one thing and it sparks off and the problem becomes larger than you anticipated. We don’t want to go in that direction,” said Muntu.
He urged that the regime pulls back and normalise the situation by first releasing presidential candidate Kyagulanyi and then work towards having sanity in the country.
“I don’t know how many people have been shot dead today [Wednesday]. Life is life, nobody wants any Ugandan to lose life. So, if there two, three, four, five people and they are now dead…what for? You want to enforce a stupid order of what you say is Covid and then end up having so many people dead…what for?” Muntu questioned.
Likewise, Tumukunde said that the country is now at a turning point in history and that the actions of the authorities shows disregard of the current state of affairs.
“We join other political leaders to unequivocally call for the immediate release of presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi,” said Tumukunde on his Twitter handle.
Tumukunde on Wednesday held campaigns in Bundibugyo and Ntoroko districts and suspended his Thursday campaign to engage other opposition members in the race on possible unified action.
Tumukunde was expected to hold rallies in Kamwenge, Kyenjojo and Kyegegwa districts today.
“We will suspend campaigns tomorrow pending the release of the two candidates and we shall continue to further consult to get a more formal decision on police stopping us from reaching the people even when we are following all the rules as possible,” Tumukunde said
Tumukunde says police has intentionally tried to frustrate the forces of opposition under the guise of implementing Covid-19 guidelines.
Norbert Mao, the Democratic Party (DP) presidential candidate issued a statement condemning the arrest of Kyagulanyi saying that all democracy seeking forces should cooperate in highlighting and combating police brutality.
“I have instructed the DP national legal advisor counsel Luyimbazi Nalukoola to take legal steps to ensure that the NUP presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi who is in detention is released from custody immediately,” read Mao’s statement in part.
He updated it today, calling for an end to the violence and bloodshed as well as the immediate release of Robert Kyagulanyi.
Katumba and Wamala
Today, 24-year-old Katumba, the youngest candidate in the presidential race says he has postponed his campaigns in Bukedea until when Kyagulanyi is freed.
He says that his campaign in Kapchorwa was interrupted yesterday when security operatives started beating up members of his campaign team while intercepting Kyagulanyi’s protestors.
On his part, Mayambala who recently announced that his campaigns will be virtual told URN that he will not continue and has headed to Nalufenya police station in Jinja to secure Kyagulanyi’s release.
Besigye weighs in
Former FDC presidential candidate Kizza Besigye also took to his official Twitter handle and demanded the immediate release of Kyagulanyi. “Escalating brutality against some presidential candidates, while the Electoral Commission-EC looks on or, even encourages it, was bound to a disastrous situation,” says Besigye in part.
The four-time former presidential candidate now says that all presidential candidates should suspend their campaigns and meet to determine the way forward.