By Halima Athumani
Uganda’s top opposition leaders — Robert Kyagulanyi of the People Power Movement and Kizza Besigye of the People’s Government — announced Monday they are joining forces to demonstrate against President Yoweri Museveni’s administration.
Citing what they called the mismanagement of the COVID-19 response, they are calling on Ugandans to carry out peaceful protests Tuesday. The Ugandan government’s deputy spokesperson has called any street actions illegal.
Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as singer Bobi Wine, trumpeted his message through his music at a rally on Monday.
The singer-turned-legislator and longtime opposition leader Kizza Besigye are urging Ugandans to take part in a peaceful protest Tuesday against the government and its response to COVID-19.
The two leaders say officials have mishandled the response to the pandemic by shutting down the economy, mismanaging public funds and throwing millions of Ugandans into poverty by placing them under a lockdown.
Wine says their objective is to liberate Ugandans who he says are continuously being oppressed by the regime.
“So, I want to call upon all Ugandans, not to sleep. Speak out and speak loudly. This campaign is called No, “Nedda”. And don’t say No silently. Say No in word and in action. Get your saucepan, if you’re hungry. Whether it’s a whistle, whether it is a metal gong, whether it is a bell. Or if you feel oppressed, make some constructive noise. This is going to be necessary noise,” he said.
However, the meeting was briefly disrupted as police accompanied by soldiers from a local defense unit entered the room and asked people to leave.
Besigye used the opportunity to express his dismay at the ruling government.
“From tomorrow, at lunch time, let’s raise our voices and say this is our country. We have 90 percent or more of our people totally marginalized by the less than one percent that uses guns to maintain power in this country and to subjugate the people of this country,” he said.
Wine and Besigye’s cooperation comes less than eight months before Uganda’s general elections.
However, President Museveni recently suggested that if the pandemic does not end by then, the elections could be postponed. He has also banned political gatherings.
Colonel Shaban Bantariza, the deputy government spokesman, said Besigye and Wine should not tempt the population to protest, saying these activities are against law and order.
“They should not be leaders of complaints. They should consolidate their complaints into campaign issues and they present them to the population. Like we shall present ours when time comes and we meet down there in the playing field.”
The opposition want an independent body established to guide the country into a recovery process from damages caused by COVID-19 and audit the government response and use of COVID-19 funds.