Calm returns to Uganda's capital after 14 killed
Scores of soldiers and police patrolled the streets of Uganda's capital in pickup trucks and on foot Saturday following riots that have killed at least 14 people and wounded dozens of others, Associated Press reported.
A sense of order returned to Kampala, with children playing in burnt-out police cars being the most obvious sign of the turmoil over the past few days. The clashes since Thursday have been between the government and members of Buganda, one of Uganda's four ancient kingdoms.
Members of the Buganda ethnic group have clashed previously with the government over land rights. The government had prevented a representative of Buganda King Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II from traveling to a region near the capital Thursday on "security grounds." Many saw it as an insult to the king.
In addition to the fatalities, 95 people were wounded and more than 500 suspects were detained, police inspector Kale Kaihura said.
The threat of more violence has not entirely disappeared. Associated Press reporters witnessed police officers singling out groups of young men and beating them with sticks and rifle butts. Shoppers and pedestrians ran past police on street corners with their hands in the air to show they were not rioters. Kaihura encouraged members of the public to report unprovoked police beatings.
The government forbade the king to attend a youth event Saturday in a town near the capital, citing security concerns. He canceled his appearance in Kayunga, where the kingdom claims land as part of its historical territory, because of the potential for more violence, his spokesman said.
"Think of Uganda as a beer bottle with the president as the lid on top," said Fred Masiga, an associate editor at the Daily Monitor newspaper. "The pressure is slowly building up and this is one of the things adding pressure."
Such violence is unusual in Uganda, better known in Africa for its progressive HIV/AIDS policies, relatively free media and growing prosperity - partly funded by newly discovered oil reserves.
The king is restricted to largely ceremonial duties under an agreement with President Yoweri Museveni, who restored the kingdoms in 1993 after years of banishment. In return, the rural Buganda kingdom largely supported him in the 2006 elections. But veiled calls for federalism have become more pronounced in recent years and support in the 2011 polls less reliable.
Government spokesman Fred Opoloto said it appeared that the Buganda kingdom was infiltrated by opposition activists. "They are using the kingdom but we believe the Kabaka is coming to his senses," he said. "I believe there will be an amicable solution before the next election." Kabaka is the traditional title for Buganda's king.
Uganda has become more prosperous and open under Museveni, shaking off the horrors of former dictators Milton Obote and Idi Amin, who liked to have political prisoners hammer each other to death. Rebels in the north have been chased into neighboring countries and a measure of security returned.
But as the wealth has increased, so have the opportunities for corruption. Secrecy surrounds the country's newly discovered oil reserves on the border with war-ravaged Congo. Opposition legislators and campaigners have called for more transparent deals with little success.
"(Officials) eat and they don't care about the people outside their house," said Mary Mukibi, as she sang a Bugandan song outside the padlocked gates of the king's radio station. The government closed it and four other stations during the clashes, accusing them of inciting violence.