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Police Block Protest March in Uganda

Published on Wednesday 6th January 2010 Police Block Protest March in Uganda

THE Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC) yesterday called off a march through the city, citing lack of security assurances from the Police.

The coalition of four opposition parties had on Sunday announced protest activities throughout the country, starting with a peaceful demonstration in Kampala yesterday, over the Government's re-appointment of what they called a 'discredited' Electoral Commission.

The march was also meant to protest the Government's closure of CBS radio, the Buganda kingdom radio accused of incitement and promoting sectarianism before and during the September riots.

"Unfortunately, we have postponed the civil protest because the Police did not provide us with security. Instead they chose to act in an uncivilised manner by deploying armed Police and soldiers on the streets," said Siraji Balinda, the spokesperson for the coalition. "It was difficult for us to walk on the streets with armed personnel around us."

He, however, announced that the coalition would go on with their planned activities throughout the country.

Balinda told The New Vision that IPC is mobilising both public and private workers to carry out a sit-down strike in an attempt to push their demands through.

Besides the unconditional re-opening of CBS and the establishment of a new Electoral Commission, the coalition wants the Government to implement a string of electoral reforms.

Kampala's streets yesterday remained heavily guarded by both patrol and regular Police, some in plain clothes. There was heavy deployment around the offices of the Electoral Commission, Parliament, Uganda House, Busega roundabout, Gayaza Road, Queen's Way and the central business district. The deployment started on Sunday night.

The Police fire brigade and dozens of Police in riot gear were on stand-by around the Kampala Central Police Station. An anti-riot water canon was parked in the backyard.

"The last time they took us by surprise. We cannot let that happen again," Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba said.

She was referring to the September riots which followed the Kabaka's aborted trip to Kayunga and left over 20 dead and a lot of property destroyed.

Wafula Oguttu, the spokesperson of FDC, which is part of the coalition, said they had called off the civil protest but would continue to engage the Government to have their issues addressed.

"We shall continue to dialogue with the Government on electoral reforms, especially our concerns with the current EC leadership," he said. He emphasised that the opposition coalition did not want to engage in running battles with the Police.

"We are giving them enough time to respond to our letter in which we sought protection to carry out a peaceful demonstration," he said.

He insisted that the letter, written on December 30, was delivered the following day to Police chief Kale Kayihura. The Police, however, say Kayihura only received the letter yesterday, the day of the march.

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