Ahead of the May 12 swearing-in ceremony of Yoweri Museveni as president for another five years, the police has begun meeting different groups of people in Kampala that intelligence suspects could disrupt the ceremony.
On Friday, the regional police commander for Kampala Metropolitan East, Siraje Bakaleke, met at least 300 leaders of boda boda (motorcycle taxi) riders around Kampala at Jokas hotel in Bweyogerere, in a bid to calm tensions generated by the controversial February 18 presidential election and the recent Supreme court ruling.
According to sources at the meeting, Bakaleke told the boda boda leaders that his team is in possession of names of 400 motorcycle riders that are planning to demonstrate as President Museveni takes the oath of office.
When contacted for comment, Bakaleke denied having spoken of a list, but admitted that they have intelligence reports of plans to disrupt the swearing-in ceremony.
We have got intelligence that Besigye and his group like [Lord Mayor Erias] Lukwago and [Kyadondo East MP] Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda plan to hold a parallel swearing in and to organise groups to disrupt the city on May 12,” he told The Observer by telephone. “The swearing-in ceremony must be peaceful and calm and it must take place. Nobody will disorganise it or cause commotion before, during and after the ceremony.”
Sources that attended the meeting said Bakaleke pleaded with those in attendance to prevail over their respective groups, saying Uganda would host at least eight presidents from around the continent and a demonstration was likely to cause chaos and embarrassment to government. He added that police would not hesitate to arrest those who try to disrupt the function and confiscate their motorcycles.
Asked to corroborate this information, Bakaleke said: “I warned them that they should distance themselves from being involved in issues of causing commotion, demonstrations, strikes and they should even distance themselves from those characters who tell them to engage in such actions because they will be handled accordingly. If Besigye is planning to cause havoc before the swearing in, they should not join him.”
According to our sources, what started as a cordial meeting soon degenerated into a quarrel when Bakaleke warned the boda bodas that they should not allow to be misled by 2016 presidential elections runner-up Kizza Besigye because some of them could die should the demonstrations become chaotic and violent.
One of the boda boda riders reportedly told the Kampala police chief that if people died in Luweero during the bush war, as the ruling NRM often tells them, then they are also ready to die for the liberation of Uganda.
Attempts to contact the chairman of boda boda drivers in Kampala, Abdu Kitata, for comment about the meeting had not succeeded by the time we went to press, as his known mobile telephone line was switched off.
However, Bakaleke said the boda boda leaders were “supportive and welcoming” and were not hostile to him. He did not remember having heard the Luweero remark.
“They said they were very happy and were not joining such groups; that elections are over and they are now focussing on development,” Bakaleke said. “They said they were very happy and are not joining such groups; that elections are over and they are now focussing on development.”
FDC spokesman Ssemujju Nganda said the police should desist from engaging in partisan politics and admitted that Bakaleke was unlikely to heed this warning because “the only difference between Bakaleke and any NRM mobiliser is that he puts on police uniform.”
Ssemujju said there was no law that the police would use to stop a parallel swearing-in ceremony from taking place, if they decided to organise it.
“The biggest problem with police now is that they get a lot of money as operational funds; so, they must continue concocting stories and fleecing the taxpayers,” he said, adding that they now use opposition as scapegoats since they can no longer use threats of terror attacks to get money.
Bakaleke, however, said the police would continue with their operations: “We are going to continue with these meetings with different groups [such as] markets and taxi drivers.”