Visiting the Kyadondo grounds at around noon, today, 12 July 2010, President Yoweri Museveni expressed anger and anguish at last night’s multiple bomb attacks in Kampala, whose death toll has now hit to 74.
“Terrorists target people indiscriminately”, Museveni remarked to a throng of journalists gathered on the main road outside the cordoned-off grounds. “[But] if they want to fight, they should go and look for soldiers, not target people who are just enjoying themselves.”
At least three bombs were detonated – two in Kyadondo rugby grounds and one in the Ethiopian Village restaurant in Kabalagala. Police today confirmed 74 deaths and 57 victims admitted to hospital.
Victims and dead bodies have been removed from the grounds, but rows of scavenging marabou storks could be seen lined-up on the rugby pitch, attracted by the human carnage. It was difficult to assess the extent of damage as journalists were denied entry into the grounds by the police and Presidential Guard’s.
However, press photos taken very early this morning, reveal that the bombs killed many people in their seats, but did not seem to have smashed the plastics chairs they sat on, nor shattered the giant viewing screens, nor set fire to the stage. It is not known what kind of munitions were used, but the holes in a nearby water tank and parked truck suggest the explosive could have contained shrapnel.
Even as Museveni condemned the “criminality” of targeting civilians, he expressed confidence in police’s ability to reconstruct the events. ”We shall go for them wherever they are coming from”, he promised.
Revealing the nerves he has shown by keeping Ugandan troops in the African Union Mission in Somalia despite criticism of this strategy at home, Museveni added: “ And that’s why we will always go for them, because they [terrorists] are very irresponsible, backward, cowardly. “
Earlier, the opposition FDC’s Alice Alaso had expressed her horror at the scale of the blasts, saying, “Whatever the case, you can’t do this to innocent people.”
William Blick, the Chairman of Uganda’s Rugby Union, who appeared at Kyadondo grounds today, told The Observer that some 5,000 people were attending the football screening at the rugby grounds last night. He said the union had handed over “a clean venue” to Uganda Breweries Limited, the hosts of last night’s event, who were therefore, also in charge of security. He could not comment on the how soon the grounds may be open again for use.
Answering journalists’ queries on whether the blasts will have any negative impact on next week’s African Union Summit, Police Spokesperson Judith Nabakooba declared, “We think it will not. There is a security plan in place so the AU is policed in a secure manner.”
Asked whether the police feared any reprisals against the local Somali community, given the suspicion of Al-Shabaab’s hand in last night’s blasts, she told The Observer: “That one is too premature to comment about now”. Nabakooba could not comment about how far the registration of Somalis living in Uganda has proceeded, saying she needed more time to be updated on the situation. The registration process was begun voluntarily by the Somali community last year, in a bid to separate the vast majority of honest, hardworking Somalis in this country, from hardliners who may have infiltrated it.
Somalia, located in the volatile Horn of Africa, has been without a stable, central government since 1991. Its northern regions have declared autonomy as Puntland and Somaliland. The remaining territory is only nominally controlled by the internationally-recognised government of Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and his transitional government. Since 2007, the Uganda army has tried to enforce peace there from the embattled capital Mogadishu, but with limited success. It has been joined by troops from Burundi, but it is believed that the AU’s contribution to AMISOM – in terms of money, arms and men- is far short of what is required to establish functional peace and democracy in Somalia.
Last night’s attack comes just over five year’s to the day that Islamist suicide bombers attacked underground trains and buses in London, UK, killing over fifty people.